DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Law of vehicle searches
on: November 22, 2007, 10:08:28 AM
An automobile in which respondent was one of the occupants was stopped by a New York State policeman for traveling at an excessive rate of speed. In the process of discovering that none of the occupants owned the car or was related to the owner, the policeman smelled burnt marihuana and saw on the floor of the car an envelope suspected of containing marihuana. He then directed the occupants to get out of the car and arrested them for unlawful possession of marihuana. After searching each of the occupants, he searched the passenger compartment of the car, found a jacket belonging to respondent, unzipped one of the pockets, and discovered cocaine. Subsequently, respondent was indicted for criminal possession of a controlled substance. After the trial court had denied his motion to suppress the cocaine seized from his jacket pocket, respondent pleaded guilty to a lesser included offense, while preserving his claim that the cocaine had been seized in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the search and seizure, but the New York Court of Appeals reversed.
Held : The search of respondent's jacket was a search incident to a lawful custodial arrest, and hence did not violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The jacket, being located inside the passenger compartment of the car, was "within the arrestee's immediate control" within the meaning of Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752, wherein it was held that a lawful custodial arrest creates a situation justifying the contemporaneous warrantless search of the arrestee and of the immediately surrounding area. Not only may the police search the passenger compartment of the car in such circumstances, they may also examine the contents of any containers found in the passenger compartment. And such a container may be searched whether it is open or closed, since the justification for the search is not that the arrestee has no privacy interest in the container but that the lawful custodial arrest justifies the infringement of any privacy interest the arrestee may have. Pp. 457-463.
THORNTON v. UNITED STATES
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
No. 03—5165. Argued March 31, 2004–Decided May 24, 2004
Before Officer Nichols could pull over petitioner, petitioner parked and got out of his car. Nichols then parked, accosted petitioner, and arrested him after finding drugs in his pocket. Incident to the arrest, Nichols searched petitioner’s car and found a handgun under the driver’s seat. Petitioner was charged with federal drug and firearms violations. In denying his motion to suppress the firearm as the fruit of an unconstitutional search, the District Court found, inter alia, the automobile search valid under New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, in which this Court held that, when a police officer makes a lawful custodial arrest of an automobile’s occupant, the Fourth Amendment allows the officer to search the vehicle’s passenger compartment as a contemporaneous incident of arrest, id., at 460. Petitioner appealed his conviction, arguing that Belton was limited to situations where the officer initiated contact with an arrestee while he was still in the car. The Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Held: Belton governs even when an officer does not make contact until the person arrested has left the vehicle. In Belton, the Court placed no reliance on the fact that the officer ordered the occupants out of the vehicle, or initiated contact with them while they remained within it. And here, there is simply no basis to conclude that the span of the area generally within the arrestee’s immediate control is determined by whether the arrestee exited the vehicle at the officer’s direction, or whether the officer initiated contact with him while he was in the car. In all relevant aspects, the arrest of a suspect who is next to a vehicle presents identical concerns regarding officer safety and evidence destruction as one who is inside. Under petitioner’s proposed “contact initiation” rule, officers who decide that it may be safer and more effective to conceal their presence until a suspect has left his car would be unable to search the passenger compartment in the event of a custodial arrest, potentially compromising their safety and placing incriminating evidence at risk of concealment or destruction. The Fourth Amendment does not require such a gamble. Belton allows police to search a car’s passenger compartment incident to a lawful arrest of both “occupants” and “recent occupants.” Ibid. While an arrestee’s status as a “recent occupant” may turn on his temporal or spatial relationship to the car at the time of the arrest and search, it certainly does not turn on whether he was inside or outside the car when the officer first initiated contact with him. Although not all contraband in the passenger compartment is likely to be accessible to a “recent occupant,” the need for a clear rule, readily understood by police and not depending on differing estimates of what items were or were not within an arrestee’s reach at any particular moment, justifies the sort of generalization which Belton enunciated. Under petitioner’s rule, an officer would have to determine whether he actually confronted or signaled confrontation with the suspect while he was in his car, or whether the suspect exited the car unaware of, and for reasons unrelated to, the officer’s presence. Such a rule would be inherently subjective and highly fact specific, and would require precisely the sort of ad hoc determinations on the part of officers in the field and reviewing courts that Belton sought to avoid. Pp. 4—8.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans
on: November 22, 2007, 06:51:29 AM
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
Native Americans and the U.S. Military
American Indian Medal of Honor Winners
Indians in the War [World War II]
Navajo Code Talkers in World War II: A Bibliography
Navajo Code Talker Fact Sheet
Navajo Code Talker Dictionary
Reminiscences of Seattle...Sloop of War Decatur During the Indian War of 1855-56
20th Century Warriors: Native American Participation in the United States Military
(Prepared for the United States Department of Defense by CEHIP Incorporated, Washington, DC, in partnership with Native American advisors, Rodger Bucholz, William Fields, Ursula P. Roach. Washington: Department of Defense, 1996.)
A Long Tradition Of Participation
American Indians have participated with distinction in United States military actions for more than 200 years. Their courage, determination, and fighting spirit were recognized by American military leaders as early as the 18th century.
I think they [Indians] can be made of excellent use, as scouts and light troops. --Gen. George Washington, 1778
Many tribes were involved in the War of 1812, and Indians fought for both sides as auxiliary troops in the Civil War. Scouting the enemy was recognized as a particular skill of the Native American soldier. In 1866, the U.S. Army established its Indian Scouts to exploit this aptitude. The Scouts were active in the American West in the late 1800s and early 1900s, accompanying Gen. John J. Pershing's expedition to Mexico in pursuit of Pancho Villa in 1916. They were deactivated in 1947 when their last member retired from the Army in ceremonies at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. Native Americans from Indian Territory were also recruited by Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and saw action in Cuba in the Spanish-American War in 1898. As the military entered the 20th century, American Indians had already made a substantial contribution through military service and were on the brink of playing an even larger role.
Contributions In Combat
It is estimated that more than 12,000 American Indians served in the United States military in World War I. Approximately 600 Oklahoma Indians, mostly Chotaw and Cherokee, were assigned to the 142nd Infantry of the 36th Texas-Oklahoma National Guard Division. The 142nd saw action in France and its soldiers were widely recognized for their contributions in battle. Four men from this unit were awarded the Croix de Guerre, while others received the Church War Cross for gallantry.
The outbreak of World War II brought American Indians warriors back to the battlefield in defense of their homeland. Although now eligible for the draft by virtue of the Snyder Act, which gave citizenship to American Indians in 1924, conscription alone does not account for the disproportionate number of Indians who joined the armed services. More than 44,000 American Indians, out of a total Native American population of less than 350,000, served with distinction between 1941 and 1945 in both European and Pacific theaters of war. Native American men and women on the home front also showed an intense desire to serve their country, and were an integral part of the war effort. More than 40,000 Indian people left their reservations to work in ordnance depots, factories, and other war industries. American Indians also invested more than $50 million in war bonds, and contributed generously to the Red Cross and the Army and Navy Relief societies.
Battle-experienced American Indian troops from World War II were joined by newly recruited Native Americans to fight Communist aggression during the Korean conflict. The Native American's strong sense of patriotism and courage emerged once again during the Vietnam era. More than 42,000 Native Americans, more than 90 percent of them volunteers, fought in Vietnam. Native American contributions in United States military combat continued in the 1980s and 1990s as they saw duty in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and the Persian Gulf.
Native Americans As Warriors
As the 20th century comes to a close, there are nearly 190,00 Native American military veterans. It is well recognized that, historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups. The reasons behind this disproportionate contribution are complex and deeply rooted in traditional American Indian culture. In many respects, Native Americans are no different from others who volunteer for military service. They do, however, have distinctive cultural values which drive them to serve their country. One such value is their proud warrior tradition.
In part, the warrior tradition is a willingness to engage the enemy in battle. This characteristic has been clearly demonstrated by the courageous deeds of Native Americans in combat. However, the warrior tradition is best exemplified by the following qualities said to be inherent to most if not all Native American societies: strength, honor, pride, devotion, and wisdom. These qualities make a perfect fit with military tradition.
To be an American Indian warrior is to have physical, mental, and spiritual strength. A warrior must be prepared to overpower the enemy and face death head-on.
We honor our veterans for their bravery and because by seeing death on the battlefield, they truly know the greatness of life. --Winnebago Elder
American Indian soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have fought heroically in all of this century's wars and armed conflicts. They have not only been formally recognized for their bravery through military decoration but through anecdotal observation as well.
The real secret which makes the Indian such an outstanding soldier is his enthusiasm for the fight. --U.S. Army Major, 1912
More important, however, is the warrior's spiritual strength. Many traditional cultures recognize that war disrupts the natural order of life and causes a spiritual disharmony. To survive the chaos of war is to gain a more intimate knowledge of life. Therefore, military service is a unique way to develop an inner strength that is valued in Native American society.
Having a strong sense of inner spirituality is also a part of the Indian character. Many Native Americans are raised on rural or remote reservations, an environment that fosters self- reliance, introspection, and a meditative way of thinking. These character traits can be very beneficial when adapting to the occasional isolation of military life in times of both peace and war.
Honor, Pride, Devotion
Warriors are honored - honored by their family and their tribe. Before going into service and upon their return, warriors are recognized by family and community. Recognition takes place through private family gatherings, or through such public ceremonies as tribal dances or intertribal ceremonies.
My people honored me as a warrior. We had a feast and my parents and grandparents thanked everyone who prayed for my safe return. We had a "special" [dance] and I remembered as we circled the drum, I got a feeling of pride. I felt good inside because that's the way the Kiowa people tell you that you've done well. --Kiowa Vietnam Veteran
Being a warrior in traditional American Indian society gives one a sense of pride and a sense of accomplishment at a time in life when self-esteem is just developing. Becoming a warrior brings status to young men and women in their culture. The ceremonies that honor the warrior create a special place in the tribe's spiritual world.
After I got home, my uncles sat me down and had me tell them what it [the war] was all about. One of them had been in the service in World War II and knew what war was like. We talked about what went on over there, about killing and the waste, and one of my uncles said that God's laws are against war. They never talked about those kinds of things with me before. --Cherokee Vietnam Veteran
United States military service provides an outlet for Native Americans to fulfill a cultural purpose rooted in tradition -- to fight and defend their homeland. This purpose is particularly important since it comes when young people of the tribe are normally not old enough to assume a leadership role in their traditional culture. The cultural expectation to be a warrior provides a purpose in life and is an important step in gaining status in Native America culture.
When I went to Germany, I never thought about war honors, or the four "coups" which an old-time Crow warrior had to earn in battle....But afterwards, when I came back and went through this telling of war deeds ceremony... lo and behold I [had] completed the four requirements to become a chief. --Crow World War II Veteran
Native American warriors are devoted to the survival of their people and their homeland. If necessary, warriors will lay down their lives for the preservation of their culture, for death to the American Indian warrior is but another step in the advancement of life. It is understood that the warrior's spirit lives on eternally. So, warriors do not fear death, but rather regard it as the ultimate sacrifice for their own and their people's continued survival.
The warrior seeks wisdom. Wisdom, as used in this context, means the sum total of formal learning and worldly experiences. In wartime, those Native Americans seeing heavy combat had to learn how to survive, often using skills that may unit commanders thought were inherent to the American Indian's cultural background. A Sac and Fox/Creek Korean veteran remarked:
My platoon commander always sent me out on patrols. He. . . probably thought that I could track down the enemy. I don't know for sure, but I guess he figured that Indians were warriors and hunters by nature.
Many American Indians (as well as non-Indian volunteers) joined the military in World War I to satisfy their sense of adventure. Most had never left the confines of their hometown, much less marched on the battlefields of Europe. These experiences provided a wisdom through exposure to other people and cultures. This was sometimes threatening to the elders of a tribe, who feared that this newfound worldliness would cause unwanted change to their culture. Over time, however, this wisdom of worldly events and peoples was accepted by tribal leaders. Today, Native Americans are increasingly exposed to the non- Indian world through movies and television. Although the military is still an avenue for seeing the world, it has, in the latter half of the 20th century, also provided other types of wisdom. Military service offers excellent educational and job skill opportunities for Native American me and women who frequently come from educationally disadvantaged communities.
Wisdom can also be gained from interaction with others. Military policy in the 20th century has preferred assimilating the American Indian into regular units. Although some divisions had more Native American troops than others, there were never all-Indian units. This meant that Indians and non-Indians were placed in close-knit groups, perhaps each experiencing each other's culture up close for the first time.
There was a camaraderie [in the Air Force] that transcends ethnicity when you serve your country overseas in wartime. --Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Cheyenne Korean veteran
Similarly, intertribal relationships were developed, sometimes with a person who was a traditional "enemy." Many times these intercultural and intertribal contacts broke through stereotypes and resulted in lifelong friendships, friendships that otherwise might never have been cultivated.
Thanks to my military service [in the Navy], I now have friends in 500 tribes. --Lakota Korean veteran
The Warrior Tradition Carries On
The requirements for successful military service -- strength, bravery, pride, and wisdom - match those of the Indian warrior. Military service affords an outlet for combat that fulfills a culturally determined role for the warrior. Therefore, the military is an opportunity for cultural self-fulfillment. By sending young tribal members off to be warriors, they return with experiences that make them valued members of their society. Finally, the military provides educational opportunities, which allow Native American veterans to return to their community with productive job skills to improve their quality of life.
With the 21st century on the horizon, the United States military can be expected to provide continuing opportunity for Native American men and women. For their part, Native Americans can be expected to carry on their centuries-old warrior tradition- serving with pride, courage, and distinction.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington
on: November 22, 2007, 05:49:54 AM
"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of
Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits,
and humbly to implore his protection and favors."
-- George Washington (Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789)
Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (543)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: November 22, 2007, 05:38:57 AM
By BRUNO BRUNETTI
November 22, 2007
Nuclear energy emerged as a clear answer to the oil shocks of the 1970s, growing from near-irrelevance early in that decade to supply almost one-third of Western European power needs by 1990. Today, as oil prices continue their unrelenting ascent and concerns mount over climate change, some argue that Europe needs a nuclear renaissance. But this time, things are slightly different.
At the moment, 32 nuclear power plants are under construction around the globe, totaling roughly 27 electrical gigawatts. Europe is home to only three of these plants, or 13% of the capacity, with one reactor in Finland and two in Bulgaria. Europe is lagging behind other regions because new nuclear stations face not only the obvious political obstacles but commercial ones as well, despite the current high price of power.
A primary commercial issue is the significant slowdown in electricity demand growth. In the 1970s and '80s, annual demand growth for power averaged 3.2% and 2.6%, respectively. Power demand has been growing by a much more modest 1.6% this decade. Higher energy prices are encouraging large power users to implement efficiency measures or even relocate industrial plants outside of Europe. Power demand growth may move below 1% a year in the next decade. In this environment even existing plants are threatened, though policy makers are raising serious questions about earlier decisions to retire nuclear power plants in Germany and elsewhere across Europe.
What's more, renewable energy sources -- particularly wind, small hydro plants and biomass -- have been growing quickly in the past few years, thanks in part to EU energy policy. Europe is close to meeting its target of using renewables to produce 21% of its electricity generation by 2010. According to the EU's "Renewable Energy Road Map," published in January 2007, Europe will probably reach 19% by 2010, and Brussels is evidently quite serious about full compliance. The European Commission has begun infringement proceedings against six member states for not fulfilling their renewable-energy obligations. A second push toward renewables comes from an ambitious, binding target of 20% for all EU energy needs by 2020. Besides electricity, we should expect renewable sources to increasingly cover other needs, such as heating for homes.
As electricity demand continues to slow down, the use of conventional sources -- oil, natural gas and coal -- should stabilize or even decline versus current levels. Rather than working to meet increasing energy needs, as in the '70s and '80s, the challenge is to replace existing and aging oil-, gas- or coal-fired power plants more efficiently. The need to replace this existing capacity will be more acute toward the end of the next decade, so the incentive to build new nuclear stations appears less pressing for the moment. Nevertheless, these plants take a long time to be built, so planning is critical. In Finland, the construction process is taking six years, rather than the four years first planned, obliging the world's leading nuclear constructor Areva to make significant financial provisions to cover the higher-than-expected costs.
Another obstacle for nuclear is structural. The electricity industry in the '70s and '80s was typically organized around vertically integrated monopolies, primarily responsible for the long-term planning, building and operation of power stations. There is no doubt that the development of large-scale and highly capital-intensive projects benefited from this market structure, as there was little market uncertainty under such a controlled system. The liberalization process -- started in the late 1980s in the U.K. and extended to the entire EU in the late 1990s -- introduced significant regulatory uncertainties and made high-cost investment decisions riskier for privately owned energy companies.
There are of course a myriad of other issues surrounding nuclear energy, including the safe transport, disposal or storage of nuclear waste, as well as the risks posed by the threat of a terrorist attack. But the commercial challenges alone mean that nuclear energy appears to have a dimmer future.
Mr. Brunetti is senior director for European electricity at PIRA Energy Group.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Current Events: Philippines
on: November 22, 2007, 05:32:20 AM
This is an area about which I know next to nothing, so please understand that my posting this article is meant only to offer it for consideration and in encouragement of knowledgeable persons here to comment, either pro or con.
A Precarious Peace
By ZACHARY ABUZA
November 22, 2007
Last week saw an important breakthrough in the talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, one of two groups fighting for an autonomous Muslim homeland. While details of the draft agreement are still vague, one thing's for sure: for this deal to work, both Manila and the MILF will have to get serious about good governance. If they don't, the southern region could once again descend into violence. And spoilers on all sides abound.
The two sides had been deadlocked for 14 months over the thorny issue of "ancestral domain" -- the territory that will be included in the new autonomous body known as the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. That body, according to the draft agreement, will assume all local governmental functions for the Moro, the Philippines' largest Muslim ethnic group. While the details are yet to be worked out, Manila would retain control of national issues that affect the region, like defense and monetary policy.
Although the agreement is a step forward, it is far from a comprehensive consensus. The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity overlaps with the five provinces governed under the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which established in 1996 by the government's peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), another group fighting for an independent homeland. It is now unclear whether the Mindanao autonomous region will be dissolved or superceded by the new entity.
The MNLF already seems dead set against a compromise. Earlier this month, its chairman, Nur Misuari, warned the government not to sign a peace agreement with the MILF. According to the MNLF, the 1996 peace deal is the "final agreement" and it's the MNLF who are the legitimate representatives of the Bangsamoro people. It's now up to both the Philippine government to include the MNLF in the drafting of a New Organic Charter (the BJE's constitution) and help both sides create a common platform for the talks and to establish principles for governance of the area, which is largely located on Mindanao island.
This may be too much to expect from Manila, given the government's track record. The Philippine Congress watered down the 1996 agreement and many provisions of the agreement were never implemented. Assuming that the recent MILF agreement leads to the formal completion of a final peace agreement in 2008, it will still have to be ratified by the Senate, which could be a protracted fight. Congress will also have to pass a host of laws to implement the agreement. The MNLF or sympathetic politicians could file court cases challenging the agreement.
Then there's the problem of corruption. The United States has pledged nearly $50 million to Mindanao upon the conclusion of a peace process. Japan, Canada and the European Union have all pledged significant aid programs, as have the major multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. But the MILF's ability to quickly and efficiently absorb the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pledged is questionable. A master plan for sustainable economic growth and natural resource exploitation must be drawn up immediately.
If there's a bright spot here, it's that the existing draft agreement calls for a referendum for independence to be held in the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity in 2030. This is the Bangsamoro's chance to secure a homeland. But to be successful, their leaders must govern fairly, transparently and honestly; while bringing broad-based economic development. The MILF does not have extensive experience in governance, administration and providing social services. They are all too aware that their pool of human resources is thin. "Nation-building is far more difficult than running a revolutionary organization," the MILF's lead negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, acknowledged last Thursday.
If the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity cannot overcome the obstacles of poor governance, impunity and corruption that have been the hallmarks of most Philippine governments, the Moro will lose this opportunity. Independence could be won, not through war, but through good governance. Now that would be a revolution.
Mr. Abuza is professor of political science at Simmons College, Boston, and the author of "Political Islam and Violence in Indonesia" (Routledge, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: November 22, 2007, 04:43:33 AM
News & Analysis
019/07 November 22, 2007
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has petitioned a court to have the label of "un-indicted co-conspirator" removed. CAIR, among many other Islamist groups, was labeled an un-indicted co-conspirator in the recent Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial held in Texas. http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071121/NATION/111210046/1002
CAIR wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asking for help in pressuring the Justice Department to remove the designation. CAIR is also asking why the Justice Department publicly named all 306 co-conspirators in the HLF indictment.
CAIR, the nation's premier apologist for Islamist terror and Islamist terrorists, is upset because the government made the very obvious connection between CAIR and terrorism.
The only mystery here is why it took the government so long to acknowledge what has been common knowledge for many years.
CAIR goes on to complain that the designation of un-indicted co-conspirator interferes with its ability to qualify for government funds for outreach programs as pending 2008 legislation would block the Justice Department from providing funds to any group or person identified as a criminal un-indicted co-conspirator.
Imagine that! It will take a federal law to implement common sense - that the government should not be providing money to a criminal un-indicted co-conspirator. Is this to mean that current law allows the Justice Department to provide funds to such groups or persons?
CAIR's letter to Conyers alluded to a civil rights connection by saying, ".you remember many of these abusive practices from the McCarthy era and the civil rights movement."
CAIR, once again, attempts to tie Muslims into the America's Civil Rights era, completely overlooking the fact that Muslims in America come in all colors and that the Civil Rights era was a justified struggle by black Americans for civil rights. Is CAIR being disingenuous by preying on Congressman Conyers African-American Ancestry?
Let's hope that Conyers rightfully rejects CAIR's ridiculous comparison.
While it may be too soon to figure out what Representative Conyers will do on behalf of CAIR, perhaps he will listen to the words of Sue Myrick, Representative of North Carolina, when she responded to some questions put to her by noted author Paul Sperry in the on-line edition of Investor's Business Daily: http://www.investors.com/editorial/editorialcontent.asp?secid=1502&status=article&id=280364244485437
(Note: Rep. Myrick is founder of the House Anti-Terrorism/Jihad Caucus, a group made up of 118 Democrat and Republican Representatives)
IBD: What persuaded you to start the Anti-Terrorism/Jihad Caucus, and what do you hope to accomplish?
Myrick: I decided to start the caucus out of a deep frustration, because President Bush does not talk to the American people about the long-term threat of radical Islamofascism infiltration in America. Since 9/11, I've tried to get the president and several members of his administration to talk to the American people about the dangerous enemy that we're facing.
IBD: Are there any Muslim groups with which federal or other government officials - as well as businesses and nonprofits - should think twice about doing outreach or interfaith activities?
Myrick: I know of some Muslim nongovernmental organizations that are doing good things, such as the Islamic Supreme Council of America, the American Islamic Congress and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.
However, groups such as Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and others have a proven record of senior officials being indicted and either imprisoned or deported from the U.S. Just to name a few: Ghassan Elashi, a founding board member of CAIR, is serving 80 months in prison; Randall "Ismail" Royer, the communications director for CAIR, is serving 20 years in prison; and Bassam Khafagi, the director of CAIR's community relations, has been arrested and deported.
There was a lot of evidence presented at the recent Holy Land Foundation trial, which exposed CAIR, ISNA and others as front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood.
What does Myrick know that Conyers may not?
Let's hope that Myrick makes the time to bring Conyers up to speed about CAIR and CAIR's ties to Islamist terrorists and terrorist groups.
Congressman Conyers should do the right thing and place CAIR's letter where it belongs, in the trash can. CAIR is not deserving of a response from a member of the People's Congress on stationary paid for by the people.
We're sure we speak for the majority of Americans when we say we look forward to the day when the "un" is removed from CAIR's well-deserved title of "un-indicted criminal co-conspirator".
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Nada Prouty scandal
on: November 21, 2007, 07:02:28 PM
It Only Gets Worse
Kudos to Debbie Schlussel, Michelle Malkin and the New York Post, who are still digging into on the Nada Prouty scandal, while the MSM takes the a pass.
Readers will recall that Ms. Prouty is the former FBI Special Agent and CIA Operative who pleaded guilty last week to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship, unlawfully obtaining information from a government computer system, and defrauding the United States.
The charges stemmed from Prouty's use of a sham marriage to attain citizenship, a prerequisite for federal employment. Once on the FBI payroll, she attempted to gain information on the bureau's efforts to investigate Hizballah activities in the U.S. and abroad. Prouty's brother-in-law, who provided employment during the 1990s, is a reported Hizballah fund-raiser, accused of funneling more than $20 million to the terrorist group before fleeing the United States.
Now, it seems that Prouty has a former sister-in-law who pulled a similar scam, to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. Reporter Jeane MacIntosh of the Post has discovered that Samar Khalil Nabbou Spinelli married the brother of the man that Prouty wed to obtain U.S. citizenship. Both marriages took place in 1990; neither woman ever lived with their "husbands," and once the naturalization process was complete, they filed for divorce. Sources tell the Post that the Michigan men involved in the scheme, Christopher and Jean Paul Deladurantaye, agreed to the deal.
With her citizenship in hand, Samar Khalil Nabbou enlisted in the Marine Corps and eventually became a commissioned officer; her rank has not been disclosed. However, depending on when she earned her commission, Nabbou is at least a Captain (O-3), a Major (O-4). After entering the Corps--and divorcing her sham husband--Nabbou married a fellow Marine, giving her yet another last name.
So far, the Marine Corps has said little about Samar Khalil Nabbou Spinelli, reporting only that she is currently stationed in Japan. The Corps has not provided information on her military specialty or past duty assignments. However, with her background and language skills, it would not be surprising to learn that Spinelli is an intelligence officer.
This much we know: as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps, Spinelli held a "Secret" security clearance at a minimum. If she held a Top Secret/SCI security clearance, Spinelli had access to Intelink, the secure "intranet" which allows the FBI, intelligence agencies and military intelligence to access and share information, including some of the nation's most sensitive secrets. As an FBI agent, Prouty may have had access to the same system, and she certainly used Intelink during her subsequent employment as a CIA operative.
What remains unclear is the relationship between Prouty and Spinelli once their sham marriages ended. The Post reports that both women lived together--with Prouty's sister--during their marriages to the Deladurantayes. However, Spinelli enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1990, while Prouty remained in the Detroit area until 1997, when she applied for a position with the FBI. Prouty used Spinelli as a reference on her employment application, suggesting there was some contact after her former "sister-in-law" began her military career.
At this point, the Marine Corps won't say what punishment (if any) Spinelli might face. For starters, there's the issue of Fraudulent Enlistment, which is a crime under Article 83 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). To become a Marine officer, Spinelli had to be a U.S. citizen, and she obtained her citizenship through fraud.
Spinelli was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal case against Prouty, along with the former CIA operative's sister, and her Hizballah-connected husband, Talil Kahil Chahine. We're guessing that Spintelli's status as a co-conspirator was based on more than merely providing a reference for Prouty's FBI application. Needless to say, the Marines will frown on Spinelli's role in the Prouty case, and her own, fraudulent enlistment into the Corps.
Beyond Spinelli's potential problems with the military justice system, there are other, equally pressing issues that require immediate resolution. The emergence of the Marine officer as an un-indicted co-conspirator raises new questions about her own access to classified information, contact with Nada Prouty after 1997, and how Spinelli's entrance into the Marine Corps (and subsequent commissioning) were vetted by authorities.
Complete background on the Prouty case from the experts at the Counter-Intelligence Centre.
Labels: Hizballah, Nada Prouty, Samar Nabbou Spinelli
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: November 21, 2007, 06:54:43 PM
CAIR Secretly Meets with Top Dem to Change Un-Indicted Co-Conspirator Designation
CAIR seeks removal of label in terrorism case
By Bill Gertz
November 21, 2007
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. has been asked by a Muslim group to pressure the Justice Department on its behalf. (Getty Images)
The Council on American-Islamic Relations is seeking help from House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. to pressure the Justice Department to change the group's status as a co-conspirator in a terrorism case.
CAIR officials recently met with Mr. Conyers, Michigan Democrat, and then wrote a letter asking him to lobby the new attorney general on behalf of the group, and to hold hearings.
CAIR is among several hundred Muslim groups listed as unindicted co-conspirators in a recent federal terrorism trial in Dallas into activities by the Holy Land Foundation Inc., a group linked to funding the Palestinian Hamas terrorist group. The trial recently ended in a mistrial and prosecutors have said they plan to re-try the case. Despite its uncertain outcome, the trial has produced a large amount of information and evidence identifying U.S. and foreign groups sympathetic to or direct supporters of international Islamist terrorists. A 1991 internal memorandum from the radical Muslim Brotherhood identified 29 front groups, including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), that are part of a covert program by the Brotherhood in the United States to subvert American society.
CAIR officials have requested that Mr. Conyers ask the Justice Department to explain why it publicly identified the 306 co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial.
"Those on the list suffer negatively as a result of the label 'unindicted co-conspirator' as it impresses upon the typical member of the American public that those listed are involved in criminal activity," the group said in a letter to Mr. Conyers. "In reality, those so named have neither been charged with a crime nor offered any recourse for challenging the allegation."
The group said the conspirator designation is being used by counterterrorism advocates to block government funds from being used to conduct outreach programs to Muslim groups. Pending fiscal 2008 legislation would block the Justice Department from using any funds for participation in conferences sponsored by a group or person identified by the government as a criminal unindicted co-conspirator. Critics in Congress opposed the Justice Department's involvement in a conference sponsored by ISNA in September because the group was linked to the Holy Land Foundation case.
CAIR's letter to Mr. Conyers said that "you remember many of these abusive practices from the McCarthy era and the civil rights movement."
Melanie Roussell, a spokeswoman for the Judiciary Committee, had no comment.
CAIR recently petitioned U.S. District Court Chief Judge A. Joe Fish in a "friend of the court" motion to remove it from the listing, saying it caused a decline in membership and fundraising. After the mistrial, Judge Fish forwarded CAIR's request to U.S. Judge Jorge A. Solis, who has not yet issued a ruling. The group stated in its appeal that linkage to the Holy Land Foundation has "impeded its ability to collect donations" because donors fear contributing to a terrorist group.
Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said the secret collaboration between CAIR and Mr. Conyers raises concerns over the lawmaker's support for "a group unambiguously proven to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas infrastructure."
"This combination demonstrates the degree to which radical Islamic groups have insinuated themselves into the highest reaches of the U.S. government by using deceit," he said.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, citing a gag order issued in the case.
• Audrey Hudson contributed to this report.http://www.washingtontimes.com/artic...111210046/1002
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton
on: November 21, 2007, 10:45:38 AM
"To grant that there is a supreme intelligence who rules the
world and has established laws to regulate the actions of his
creatures; and still to assert that man, in a state of nature,
may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law
and government, appears to a common understanding altogether
irreconcilable. Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced
a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed that the deity,
from the relations we stand in to himself and to each other, has
constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably
obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution
whatever. This is what is called the law of nature....Upon this
law depend the natural rights of mankind."
-- Alexander Hamilton ()
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: November 21, 2007, 10:37:19 AM
Force Science News #85
2 officer-survival studies due to kick off in new FSRC facilities
Pilot studies for 2 new research projects with significant officer-survival implications will get underway next month [12/07] at a new testing facility designed by the Force Science Research Center near the campus of Minnesota State University-Mankato.
One study will seek to measure the time required for an "attentional shift" during a high-stress, potentially violent confrontation. That is, how long does it take the average law enforcement officer to detect, absorb, and react to changes in his visual field while he is attempting to concentrate on and deal with a primary threat to his safety.
"What we discover in this study could change the way many officers approach potentially dangerous situations," Lewinski claims. "Not by making them paranoid, but by convincing them of the importance of planning ahead rather than attempting the impossible by trying to out-time a sudden, unexpected threat."
The second pilot will expand on earlier FSRC studies of biomechanics (how and how fast do suspects move during certain force confrontations) and also will try to identify important visual cues that may constitute precursors of an armed assault.
"We plan to look particularly at suspects who are lying prone on the ground, with the hands hidden under their body," Lewinski explains. "How long does it take a suspect to roll up enough from that position to point a gun and fire at an officer, and what early indication might an officer see as a warning that such a threat is being activated."
New Testing Facilities.
The pilot studies, which are intended to get the bugs out of testing procedures before researchers launch their comprehensive investigations, will be conducted in a newly opened 1,000-sq. ft. laboratory built to FSRC's specifications as part of the Center's new headquarters in downtown Mankato.
Occupying 3,500 sq. ft. in a historic stone building more than a century old, the centralized headquarters, which have been in development for over a year, permit consolidation of administrative offices, conference space, and the laboratory "for testing the technology and design elements of our research projects," Lewinski says. Some full-scale research can be conducted there as well.
The lab's appointments include an EEG (electroencephalogram) room, specially insulated against sound, vibration, and electrical interference, where sophisticated computerized equipment can record brain activity of officers as they engage in a variety of experimental activities. This room was designed by FSRC's deputy director, Dr. Bill Hudson, an electrical engineer, and Dr. Jonathan Page, a specialist in experimental psychology and a member of FSRC's technical advisory board.
The lab also is outfitted with an updated simulation equipment package, supplied by Ti Training of Englewood, CO, an FSRC research partner. "This will allow us in the future to create our own simulation scenarios, specifically tailored for our research needs," Lewinski explains. Todd Brown, a Ti representative and one of the Center's tech advisors, will coordinate this component of the laboratory.
A state-of-the-art lighting system in the laboratory "permits us to control light at any level, from full-bright illumination to total darkness, without hampering the versatility or accuracy of our recording equipment during experiments," Lewinski says.
The pilot shakedowns for the Center's 2 new projects are expected to take about a month, with the full-scale research then extending into next spring.
Attentional Shift Study.
The post-pilot component of this research will involve a minimum of 60 officer volunteers, participating in testing first at the FSRC laboratory and then at LE agencies elsewhere in Minnesota.
One at a time, the officers will face a downrange target with their gun out, as if concentrating on controlling a dangerous suspect. In unpredictable patterns, various lights will pop on within their focal area (7 to 9 degrees to each side). Some may represent new threats, others mere distractions.
The officers will have to notice each light display, mentally identify the meaning of it, and respond appropriately, pulling the trigger when a reaction is required.
The gun involved has an ultra-sensitive sensor embedded in it, allowing a computerized measurement of trigger pull in 320 discrete units, with the trigger position recorded every 10 milliseconds, Lewinski says.
"We'll be able to tell the quickest, the slowest, and the average time for recognition of changes in the visual field and for reaction to them, and we expect the implications to be profound," Lewinski says.
For one thing, he believes the findings will motivate officers to take more time to assess suspects and environments before entering potentially dangerous scenes.
"Once officers understand how very badly behind the reactionary curve they are when sudden shifts in attention are required, they'll be encouraged to more thoroughly assess ahead of time what they may be moving into and to strategize how best to enter and cope with the situation to minimize the possibility of threatening surprises," Lewinski explains.
"When they learn to maximize preventive tactics, such as using cover or otherwise positioning themselves to advantage, they'll be more comfortable with encounters and better able to focus on their primary transactions."
For this study, expected to run from January through April, Jonathan Page, a researcher of cognitive and brain science at Minnesota State, will monitor the volunteers' brain activity with EEG equipment. Andy Miner of MSU's Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. will operate the stimulus and computer gear involved. The gun/sensor unit to be used was designed by Miner and Bill Hudson. Overseeing the research will be Ray Knutson, a reserve officer with Minneapolis PD and a clinical psychologist in the Minnesota state hospital system, specializing in criminally deviant behavior. He will detail the project as part of his doctoral research.
Biomechanics/Visual Cues Study.
In earlier research, FSRC has identified and timed some 15 different motions and their variations that suspects display when engaging officers in gunfights. This new study will expand that database, with particular emphasis on suspects who are prone on the ground with their hands hidden.
The test subjects will be 60 civilian volunteers who will be filmed and timed to see how long it takes them to roll from a prone position (handgun hidden under them at waistline or at chest level) to a position where they can shoot.
Timing will also be done of what Lewinski terms the "pseudo-suicide threat." That's where a subject who is pointing a handgun at his own head, suddenly points it at an officer and fires.
The action will be filmed by 3 computer-linked, synchronized high-speed cameras that will be positioned at different angles. During an analysis of the action, which can be filmed at up to 650 frames per second, the recorded images can be frozen frame by frame so that all 3 angles can be viewed simultaneously on a computer screen for detailed scrutiny and timing.
The cameras, part of a $25,000 technology package, will be provided by the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, an FSRC research partner. Most of the research will be conducted there, with Erik Walters, a tactics instructor at the college, coordinating the project. Lewinski will be in charge of the research.
Based on some preliminary investigation, Lewinski believes that the study may find that a prone subject can roll to either side and shoot in as little as one-third of a second. "If 2 officers were approaching a prone suspect in a contact/cover configuration, this would be faster than a cover officer could respond to stop the threat even if he had his finger on the trigger when the suspect moved."
Part of the research analysis will involve trying to identify early cues that a downed suspect is beginning to roll. "The filming may show that a suspect's hips may be the first part of his body to move when he's starting to roll," Lewinski says. "If we can pin down the precise dynamics, our findings may be able to give an officer a split-second jump on reacting.
"The findings may also suggest how best to approach-or whether to approach at all-when a suspect is lying on his hands."
This research, scheduled to begin in Janbuary, is expected to run until May.
Other New Developments.
Two other new developments are underway that will help advance FSRC's mission to study use-of-force issues and communicate its findings to the law enforcement community:
• Cst. Dave Blocksidge has been directed by the London Met Police to act as liaison with FSRC in the management of a variety of English-funded research projects currently underway in the London area.
• Dr. Lewinski has been named an associate editor of the Law Enforcement Executive Forum, a peer-reviewed, bi-monthly publication of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board Executive Institute.
Starting next March, the Forum will dedicate a section on Force Science research in its forthcoming issues, in both print and electronic formats. Contributors are encouraged to submit articles on behavioral science research related to street-level law enforcement issues. The Forum will supplant the online e-journal previously planned by FSRC.
for more information
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a non-profit institution based at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Subscriptions are free and sent via e-mail. To register for your free, direct-delivery subscription, please visit www.forcesciencenews.com
and click on the registration button.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Thanksgiving
on: November 21, 2007, 10:18:08 AM
And one more:
“Tomorrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us, the General... earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day.” —George Washington (December 17, 1777)
The necessity of Thanksgiving
In this era of overblown political correctness, we often hear tales of Thanksgiving that stray far afield from the truth. Contemporary textbook narratives of the first American harvest celebration portray the Pilgrim colonists as having given thanks to their Indian neighbors for teaching them how to survive in a strange new world. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the historical record, in which the colonists gave thanks to God Almighty, the Provider of their blessings.
The “First Thanksgiving” is usually depicted as the Pilgrims’ three-day feast in early November 1621. The Pilgrims, Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believed that the worship of God must originate freely in the individual soul, under no coercion. The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing to the New World on the promise of opportunity for religious and civil liberty.
For almost three months, 102 seafarers braved the brutal elements, arriving off what is now the Massachusetts coast. On 11 December, before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, the voyagers signed the Mayflower Compact, America’s original document of civil government predicated on principles of self-government. While still anchored at Provincetown harbor, Pastor John Robinson counseled, “You are become a body politic... and are to have only them for your... governors which yourselves shall make choice of.” Governor William Bradford described the Mayflower Compact as “a combination... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them...”
Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Malnutrition and illness during the ensuing New England winter killed nearly half their number. Through prayer and hard work, with the assistance of their Wampanoag Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621, the bounty of which they shared with the Wampanoag. The celebration incorporated feasting and games, which remain holiday traditions.
Such ready abundance soon waned, however. Under demands from investors funding their endeavor, the Pilgrims had acquiesced to a disastrous arrangement holding all crops and property in common, in order to return an agreed-to half of their produce to their overseas backers. (These financiers insisted they could not trust faraway freeholders to split the colony’s profits honestly.) Within two years, Plymouth was in danger of foundering under famine, blight and drought. Colonist Edward Winslow wrote, “The most courageous were now discouraged, because God, which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in his anger to arm himself against us.”
Governor Bradford’s record of the history of the colony describes 1623 as a period of arduous work coupled with “a great drought... without any rain and with great heat for the most part,” lasting from spring until midsummer. The Plymouth settlers followed the Wampanoag’s recommended cultivation practices carefully, but their crops withered.
The Pilgrims soon thereafter thought better of relying solely on the physical realm, setting “a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress.” In affirmation of their faith and providing a great witness to the Indians, by evening of that day the skies became overcast and gentle rains fell, restoring the yield of the fields. Governor Bradford noted, “And afterwards the Lord sent to them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.”
Winslow noted the Pilgrims’ reaction as believing “it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us...” This was the original American Thanksgiving Day, centered not on harvest feasting (as in 1621) but on gathering together to publicly recognize the favor and provision of Almighty God.
Bradford’s diary recounts how the colonists repented of their financial folly under sway of their financiers: “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.”
By the mid-17th century, autumnal Thanksgivings were common throughout New England; observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution. At other junctures of “great distress” or miraculous intervention, colonial leaders called their countrymen to offer prayerful thanks to God. The Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country’s continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783.
In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation’s blessings. Presidents George Washington, John Adams and James Madison followed the custom of declaring national days of thanks, though it was not officially declared again until another moment of national peril, when during the War Between the States Abraham Lincoln invited “the whole American people” to observe “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father... with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” In 1941, Congress set permanently November’s fourth Thursday as our official national Thanksgiving.
The Pilgrims’ temporary folly of sundering and somersaulting the material as transcendent over the spiritual conveys an important lesson that modern histories are reluctant to tell. The Founders, recognizing this, placed first among constitutionally recognized rights the free exercise of religion—faith through action.
If what we seek is a continuance of God s manifold blessings, then a day of heartfelt thanksgiving is a tiny tribute indeed.
This Thanksgiving, please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially the families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have died in defense of American liberty.
On behalf of your Patriot staff and National Advisory Committee, we wish God’s peace and blessings upon you and yours this Thanksgiving.
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis!
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: November 21, 2007, 10:10:14 AM
Courage and Journalism
November 21, 2007; Page A18
Among the blessings this fair land can give thanks for tomorrow is a free press. In much of the rest of the world, that's a freedom that remains elusive at best. The men and women who report the news often do so at great personal risk.
Four such journalists were honored in New York City yesterday by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-profit group that promotes the right of journalists world-wide to report without fear of reprisals. The honorees work in four countries on three continents. Each has a harrowing tale to tell. Three have colleagues who were murdered while on the job.
Adela Navarro Bello is the general director of Zeta, a weekly magazine in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico. Zeta covers organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption in Mexico's northern states, including the collusion between police and criminals. The cost of its investigative reporting has been high. Zeta's co-founder and a co-editor were murdered, and Ms. Navarro has received death threats. On a visit to the Journal's offices on Monday, she described the milieu in which she works: "Journalists have been assaulted, murdered or simply disappear."
Pakistan's Mazhar Abbas works for ARY One World Television, one of the TV stations closed down in President Pervez Musharraf's current state of emergency. After his name appeared on the hit list of an ethnic group allied with Mr. Musharraf, Mr. Abbas was among three journalists who found an envelope containing a bullet taped to his car. A recent trend is for the families of journalists also to be targeted.
Dmitry Muratov is founder and editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper for which the late Anna Politkovskaya was working when she was murdered last year. Mr. Muratov's newspaper is known for its probes of high-level corruption, human-rights abuses and the war in Chechnya. "The [Vladmir Putin] government views the country as its personal business enterprise," he told us, "and we are basically trying to expose them." In addition to Ms. Politkovskaya, two other Novaya Gazeta reporters have been killed.
The fourth honoree is Gao Qinrong, who was released recently from a Chinese jail. He served eight years on a series of bogus charges brought after he exposed government corruption in an irrigation project in Shanxi province. Beijing refused to issue him a passport so he was honored in absentia. There are 29 journalists currently in jail in China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Mr. Muratov spoke for all the winners when he told us, "We do what we can." Such modesty belies their courage and dedication.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This fair land
on: November 21, 2007, 09:56:43 AM
And the Fair Land
November 21, 2007; Page A18
Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.
This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.
And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.
So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.
For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.
His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.
How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places -- only to find those men as frail as any others.
So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?
Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.
But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere -- in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.
We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.
This editorial has appeared annually since 1961.
The Desolate Wilderness
November 21, 2007; Page A18
Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:
So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.
When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.
The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.
Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.
If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.
This editorial has appeared annually since 1961.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues
on: November 21, 2007, 09:47:11 AM
Here's a point of view to consider:
Food for Thought
By TOM NASSIF
November 20, 2007;
In the midst of the combustive debate over immigration reform, we in agriculture have been forthright about the elephant in America's living room: Much of our workforce is in the country illegally -- as much as 70%.
Faced with the option of economic ruin, as hundreds of millions of dollars worth of our livelihood rots in the fields, or the embrace of a fatally flawed immigration system, our industry and farm families opt to survive. Who wouldn't? For those who have a 10-20 day harvest window to make or break their entire business year, government promises to fix the system don't work. We can't wait for rules to change. We need reform and we need it now.
Western Growers -- representing half of all the fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. -- has repeatedly called for a fix. We want and expect government to enforce immigration laws; we want a secure border, fraud-proof IDs and valid Social Security cards. Despite a broken and unworkable system, however, Congress has chosen not to act. Meanwhile, the Bush administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- under intense political pressure -- did begin to move.
Last month, a federal judge ordered an indefinite delay to the DHS's "no-match" program that would have forced employers to fire workers whose Social Security numbers did not match their names. The judge said it would cause "irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers." This preliminary injunction has prevented the DHS from proceeding with the shortsighted no-match program.
The DHS openly concedes our industry's reliance on falsely documented workers. But like a physician who diagnoses an open wound but uses salt in place of sutures, DHS avoided the cure in favor of additional pain.
The pain was in the form of the no-match rules. The DHS guidelines would have established purported "safe harbor" procedures for employers who received a Social Security Administration (SSA) no-match letter. The letter notifies an employer that he has submitted employee W-2s with names and Social Security numbers that do not match. Employers would have had to fire employees who could not produce new documentation within 90 days of receiving the letter, or face the risk that DHS may find that the employer had knowledge that the employee was unauthorized.
The regulations would have put farmers in an untenable situation: Either terminate the majority of their existing workforce and let the crops die in the fields, or disregard the rules and risk having to pay huge fines and penalties for "knowingly" employing undocumented workers. This attempt by DHS to expose illegal immigrants would have done nothing to address the underlying issues or correct the problem.
Fortunately, the courts have stepped in and the Bush administration now has an opportunity to fix our broken system. The plaintiffs in the case argued that DHS's plans would place a costly burden on employers and result in the needless firing of employees. That, in turn, would open employers up to lawsuits and charges of discrimination. Civil liberties organizations pointed out the no-match rules would likely lead to the violation of the rights of many legal workers who might have made a mistake they couldn't correct before deadline.
These valid concerns must be addressed. Agriculture yearns for a legal, stable, economical workforce; we have been saying so for years. And though we are relieved by the court's decision, it doesn't change the fact that this industry still needs a workable solution. Our current guest-worker program, known as H2-A, is costly and cumbersome, and sets labor standards that are not competitive in the global marketplace.
At the Bush administration's request, we have suggested changes to the H-2A program, such as expediting the application process and faxing guest-worker approval notices, instead of relying on "snail mail" while highly perishable crops await timely harvesters. These fixes are not difficult and can, in most cases, be administratively applied -- what is the delay?
If the DHS's no-match program had gone forward, America's domestic food supply would have been irreparably damaged. Small farm owners would have gone out of business and large operators could have taken their operations abroad -- taking hundreds of thousands of jobs with them.
Our industry, as well as farm-worker advocates -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- support legislation known as AgJOBS. This bill, which was a part of the Senate's "grand bargain," includes a temporary guest-worker program that logically matches willing farmers with willing foreign laborers.
AgJOBS provides the perfect opportunity for Congress to make progress on this critically important issue. Americans don't raise their children to work in the fields, and so we are reliant on a foreign workforce. We desperately want that workforce to be legal, and AgJOBS affords us that opportunity.
The Bush administration does support comprehensive immigration reform, and reportedly set in place the DHS's draconian no-match rules to force the issue. Still, it was playing a risky game of chance with U.S. agriculture to the detriment of our industry, our economy and American consumers.
We must stop playing games with our domestic food supply. Agriculture needs workers, Americans won't do the work and Congress lacks the courage to pass a comprehensive immigration package. It is time for Congress to find its courage, rise above the anger of the activists, and come together to solve this problem.
Mr. Nassif is president & CEO of Western Growers.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: November 20, 2007, 06:37:06 AM
I'm quite bummed to learn of the extent that bigotry supports RP's campaign. That said, I think much of his appeal is in his originalist based approach to our Constitution. His positions on gun rights, cutting taxes and cutting back government are strong and clear.
I saw last night that he is polling at 8% in , , , New Hampshire? Iowa? where Fred is polling at 4%.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even the NY Times , , ,
on: November 20, 2007, 06:27:58 AM
This from the NY Times-- I bet it hurt them to have to write it:
BAGHDAD, Nov. 19 — Five months ago, Suhaila al-Aasan lived in an oxygen tank factory with her husband and two sons, convinced that they would never go back to their apartment in Dora, a middle-class neighborhood in southern Baghdad.
Today she is home again, cooking by a sunlit window, sleeping beneath her favorite wedding picture. And yet, she and her family are remarkably alone. The half-dozen other apartments in her building echo with emptiness and, on most days, Iraqi soldiers are the only neighbors she sees.
“I feel happy,” she said, standing in her bedroom, between a flowered bedspread and a bullet hole in the wall. “But my happiness is not complete. We need more people to come back. We need more people to feel safe.”
Mrs. Aasan, 45, a Shiite librarian with an easy laugh, is living at the far end of Baghdad’s tentative recovery. She is one of many Iraqis who in recent weeks have begun to test where they can go and what they can do when fear no longer controls their every move.
The security improvements in most neighborhoods are real. Days now pass without a car bomb, after a high of 44 in the city in February. The number of bodies appearing on Baghdad’s streets has plummeted to about 5 a day, from as many as 35 eight months ago, and suicide bombings across Iraq fell to 16 in October, half the number of last summer and down sharply from a recent peak of 59 in March, the American military says.
As a result, for the first time in nearly two years, people are moving with freedom around much of this city. In more than 50 interviews across Baghdad, it became clear that while there were still no-go zones, more Iraqis now drive between Sunni and Shiite areas for work, shopping or school, a few even after dark. In the most stable neighborhoods of Baghdad, some secular women are also dressing as they wish. Wedding bands are playing in public again, and at a handful of once shuttered liquor stores customers now line up outside in a collective rebuke to religious vigilantes from the Shiite Mahdi Army.
Iraqis are clearly surprised and relieved to see commerce and movement finally increase, five months after an extra 30,000 American troops arrived in the country. But the depth and sustainability of the changes remain open to question.
By one revealing measure of security — whether people who fled their home have returned — the gains are still limited. About 20,000 Iraqis have gone back to their Baghdad homes, a fraction of the more than 4 million who fled nationwide, and the 1.4 million people in Baghdad who are still internally displaced, according to a recent Iraqi Red Crescent Society survey.
Iraqis sound uncertain about the future, but defiantly optimistic. Many Baghdad residents seem to be willing themselves to normalcy, ignoring risks and suppressing fears to reclaim their lives. Pushing past boundaries of sect and neighborhood, they said they were often pleasantly surprised and kept going; in other instances, traumatic memories or a dark look from a stranger were enough to tug them back behind closed doors.
Mrs. Aasan’s experience, as a member of the brave minority of Iraqis who have returned home, shows both the extent of the improvements and their limits.
She works at an oasis of calm: a small library in eastern Baghdad, where on several recent afternoons, about a dozen children bounced through the rooms, reading, laughing, learning English and playing music on a Yamaha keyboard.
Brightly colored artwork hangs on the walls: images of gardens, green and lush; Iraqi soldiers smiling; and Arabs holding hands with Kurds.
It is all deliberately idyllic. Mrs. Aasan and the other two women at the library have banned violent images, guiding the children toward portraits of hope. The children are also not allowed to discuss the violence they have witnessed.
“Our aim is to fight terrorism,” Mrs. Aasan said. “We want them to overcome their personal experiences.”
The library closed last year because parents would not let their children out of sight. Now, most of the children walk on their own from homes nearby — another sign of the city’s improved ease of movement.
But there are scars in the voice of a ponytailed little girl who said she had less time for fun since her father was incapacitated by a bomb. (“We try to make him feel better and feel less pain,” she said.) And pain still lingers in the silence of Mrs. Aasan’s 10-year-old son, Abather, who accompanies her wherever she goes.
Page 2 of 2)
One day five months ago, when they still lived in Dora, Mrs. Aasan sent Abather to get water from a tank below their apartment. Delaying as boys will do, he followed his soccer ball into the street, where he discovered two dead bodies with their eyeballs torn out. It was not the first corpse he had seen, but for Mrs. Aasan that was enough. “I grabbed him, we got in the car and we drove away,” she said.
After they heard on an Iraqi news program that her section of Dora had improved, she and her husband explored a potential return. They visited and found little damage, except for a bullet hole in their microwave.
Two weeks ago, they moved back to the neighborhood where they had lived since 2003.
“It’s just a rental,” Mrs. Aasan said, as if embarrassed at her connection to such a humble place. “But after all, it’s home.”
In interviews, she and her husband said they felt emboldened by the decline in violence citywide and the visible presence of Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint a few blocks away.
Still, it was a brave decision, one her immediate neighbors have not yet felt bold enough to make. Mrs. Aasan’s portion of Dora still looks as desolate as a condemned tenement. The trunk of a palm tree covers a section of road where Sunni gunmen once dumped a severed head, and about 200 yards to the right of her building concrete Jersey barriers block a section of homes believed to be booby-trapped with explosives.
“On this street,” she said, standing on her balcony, “many of my neighbors lost relatives.” Then she rushed inside.
Her husband, Fadhel A. Yassen, 49, explained that they had seen several friends killed while they sat outside in the past. He insisted that being back in the apartment was “a victory over fear, a victory over terrorism.”
Yet the achievement remains rare. Many Iraqis say they would still rather leave the country than go home. In Baghdad there are far more families like the Nidhals. The father, who would only identify himself as Abu Nebras (father of Nebras), is Sunni; Hanan, his wife, is a Shiite from Najaf, the center of Shiite religious learning in Iraq. They lived for 17 years in Ghazaliya in western Baghdad until four gunmen from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is led by foreigners, showed up at his door last December.
“My sons were armed and they went away but after that, we knew we had only a few hours,” Abu Nebras said. “We were displaced because I was secular and Al Qaeda didn’t like that.”
They took refuge in the middle-class Palestine Street area in the northeastern part of Baghdad, a relatively stable enclave with an atmosphere of tolerance for their mixed marriage. Now with the situation improving across the city, the Nidhal family longs to return to their former home, but they have no idea when, or if, it will be possible.
Another family now lives in their house — the situation faced by about a third of all displaced Iraqis, according to the International Organization for Migration — and it is not clear whether the fragile peace will last. Abu Nebras tested the waters recently, going back to talk with neighbors on his old street for the first time.
He said the Shiites in the northern part of Ghazaliya had told him that the American military’s payments to local Sunni volunteers in the southern, Sunni part of the neighborhood amounted to arming one side.
The Americans describe the volunteers as heroes, part of a larger nationwide campaign known as the Sunni Awakening. But Abu Nebras said he did not trust them. “Some of the Awakening members are just Al Qaeda who have joined them,” he said. “I know them from before.”
With the additional American troops scheduled to depart, the Nidhal family said, Baghdad would be truly safe only when the Iraqi forces were mixed with Sunnis and Shiites operating checkpoints side by side — otherwise the city would remain a patchwork of Sunni and Shiite enclaves. “The police, the army, it has to be Sunni next to Shiite next to Sunni next to Shiite,” Abu Nebras said.
They and other Iraqis also said the government must aggressively help people return to their homes, perhaps by supervising returns block by block. The Nidhal family said they feared the displaced Sunnis in their neighborhood who were furious that Shiites chased them from their houses. “They are so angry, they will kill anyone,” Abu Nebras said.
For now, though, they are trying to enjoy what may be only a temporary respite from violence. One of their sons recently returned to his veterinary studies at a university in Baghdad, and their daughter will start college this winter.
Laughter is also more common now in the Nidhal household — even on once upsetting subjects. At midday, Hanan’s sister, who teaches in a local high school, came home and threw up her hands in exasperation. She had asked her Islamic studies class to bring in something that showed an aspect of Islamic culture. “Two boys told me, ‘I’m going to bring in a portrait of Moktada al-Sadr,’” she said.
She shook her head and chuckled. Mr. Sadr is an anti-American cleric whose militia, the Mahdi Army, has been accused of carrying out much of the displacement and killings of Sunnis in Baghdad. They can joke because they no longer fear that the violence will engulf them.
In longer interviews across Baghdad, the pattern was repeated. Iraqis acknowledged how far their country still needed to go before a return to normalcy, but they also expressed amazement at even the most embryonic signs of recovery.
Mrs. Aasan said she was thrilled and relieved just a few days ago, when her college-aged son got stuck at work after dark and his father managed to pick him up and drive home without being killed.
“Before, when we lived in Dora, after 4 p.m., I wouldn’t let anyone out of the house,” she said.
“They drove back to Dora at 8!” she added, glancing at her husband, who beamed, chest out, like a mountaineer who had scaled Mount Everest. “We really felt that it was a big difference.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology
on: November 20, 2007, 06:08:57 AM
Despite flash, males are simple creatures
Females evolve slower, but it's because they're more complex
By Jeanna Bryner
updated 11:06 a.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 19, 2007
The secret to why male organisms evolve faster than their female counterparts comes down to this: Males are simple creatures.
In nearly all species, males seem to ramp up glitzier garbs, more graceful dance moves and more melodic warbles in a never-ending vie to woo the best mates. Called sexual selection, the result is typically a showy male and a plain-Jane female. Evolution speeds along in the males compared to females.
The idea that males evolve more quickly than females has been around since 19th century biologist Charles Darwin observed the majesty of a peacock’s tail feather in comparison with those of the drab peahen.
How and why males exist in evolutionary overdrive despite carrying essentially the same genes as females has long puzzled scientists.
New research on fruit flies, detailed online last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds males have fewer genetic obstacles to prevent them from responding quickly to selection pressures in their environments.
"It’s because males are simpler," said lead author Marta Wayne, a zoologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "The mode of inheritance in males involves simpler genetic architecture that does not include as many interactions between genes as could be involved in female inheritance."
The finding could also shed light on why diseases show up differently in men and women.
Wayne and her colleagues examined more than 8,500 genes shared by both sexes of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Of those genes, about 7,600 have different expressions (alleles) that do different jobs in males and females.
The flies were identical genetically, except for their sex chromosomes.
In flies and humans, thousands of genes made up of DNA are packaged into tiny units called chromosomes. Each parent contributes one set of 23 chromosomes to offspring, resulting in little ones with 23 father-given chromosomes and 23 mother-chromosomes — 46 total. One pair of these is called the sex chromosome. In this case, the females have two X chromosomes (XX) and males, XY.
Many genes are found on the X chromosome, whereas few are associated with the Y chromosome. For female fruit flies, the X-chromosome genes can come in two flavors called alleles that not only interact with each other but also with other genes.
For instance, if one allele is dominant over the other, that allele would get "expressed" while the recessive allele would stay hidden. Though under cover, the recessive allele kind of hitches a ride on the X chromosome and can be passed on to future generations.
That's not the case with males.
"We find direct evidence that the expression of the genes on the X has this covering behavior in females whereas in males they're out in the open," said study team member Lauren McIntyre, also of UF.
Males only have one X chromosome, so what you see is what you get. If that particular gene gives the male a boost in terms of sexual selection, say a gene responsible for fluffier feathers, the gene would be selected for in the game of natural selection over successive generations. But if the gene is no good for males, it would get selected against over time.
"Having one X means your genes are more open to selection in males," UF researcher Marina Telonis-Scott said in a telephone interview. "So in a female if you have a recessive allele that confers a sickness, it can be concealed within the two X's but if you've only got one, such as the male, you're more open to selection."
And the reason males are genetic simpletons, it turns out, is sex. The researchers suggest this uncomplicated (compared with females) genetic pathway allows males to respond at the drop of a hat to the pressures of sexual selection. That way they can win females, produce more offspring and start the cycle over again.
While not as prominent a trend, they also found a similar pattern in so-called autosomal genes, which are those found on any chromosome save the sex chromosomes. Many of the fruit-fly autosomal genes, however, did work in concert with genes located on the X chromosome.
The "elephant lurking in these results," of course, is how they would apply to men and women.
The researchers caution the results don't directly translate to humans. "The X function is thought to be quite different in flies than humans," McIntyre told LiveScience. In humans, one of the X chromosomes gets inactivated in females, though research is finding this inactivation isn't always absolute.
However, the results could help explain differences in symptoms and responses to diseases in men and women, the authors say. Sexual selection does occur in humans, they note. In addition, fruit flies and humans share an evolutionary history, the authors point out, which is the reason why we share more than 65 percent of our genes with the tiny insects.
"If we see a mechanism in flies it may also be true in everything that shares that evolutionary history," McIntyre said.
On a basic level, the genetic machinery works in a similar manner in flies and us.
"There's a health aspect in figuring out differences in gene expression between the sexes," Wayne said. "To make a male or a female, even in a fly, it's all about turning things on — either in different places or different amounts or at different times — because we all basically have the same starting set of genes."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Madison
on: November 20, 2007, 05:39:48 AM
"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage,
and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty
is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to
the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as
a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of
the Governor of the Universe."
-- James Madison (A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785)
Reference: Our Sacred Honor, Bennett (327)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: November 19, 2007, 11:45:45 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 19, 2007
November 19, 2007 19 22 GMT
So far this month, one of the deadliest days in Mexico has been Nov. 17, when at least 11 drug-related deaths were reported in six states. From charred bodies discovered in Chiapas state to armed men storming a house to kill two presumed drug dealers in Durango state, the killings provide a snapshot of violence in a country where approximately 2,400 people have died violently so far this year.
The cartel turf battles that produced much of this violence have led to important shifts in cartels' areas of territorial control. The federal attorney general's office reported this past week that the town of Zamora, in Michoacan state, is now in the hands of elements of the Gulf cartel, following a long battle with members of the Sinaloa-linked Valencia cartel. As long as rival gangs continue to fight for control of lucrative smuggling routes, shifts such as this one should be expected to continue -- along with the violence that accompanies them.
One of the biggest challenges to counternarcotics operations in Mexico has been corruption not only of law enforcement personnel but also of government officials. In addition to threatening, killing and kidnapping officials already in office, organized crime groups have demonstrated an interest in influencing the election process. An incident this past week in Michoacan state underscored this trend. On Nov. 16 in Zamora, as the election commission was tallying up the final vote from local elections held Nov. 11, a group of armed men entered the commission's office, threatened members and set fire to documents related to the election. Political candidates and their campaign staffs also have been subject to violence. At least one candidate for office in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, was reportedly abducted before a vote there last week while another candidate's financial adviser was said to have been kidnapped.
The waters of political violence are murky in Mexico, where it is common to hear of politicians dispatching henchmen to intimidate or eliminate their rivals. There is an element of truth to some of these rumors, especially in a country where the presidency and top levels of government were dominated by one political party for more than 70 years. However, drug trafficking organizations also have a strong interest in promoting candidates that are on their payroll. In some cases, politicians might even have knowledge of cartel actions against opponents, and frequently the henchmen hired by political candidates will have ties to the cartels.
More than 50 armed men entered the city morgue in Ensenada, Baja California state, early Nov. 15 to remove the body of man who had died three days before in a helicopter accident while following the Baja 1000 car race. The heavily armed group reportedly arrived in more than a dozen vehicles, stormed the building and loaded the body into a vehicle, firing assault rifles at police officers before fleeing. Prior to the theft, two unidentified individuals had reportedly attempted to claim the body but authorities did not release it.
Although it appears certain that the body belonged to an important member of the Tijuana cartel, there is official confusion as to who the man was, likely because the body was registered at the morgue under a pseudonym. Initial reports from authorities in Baja California state indicated that the man was Francisco Medardo León Hinojosa, aka El Abulón, a high-ranking lieutenant in the Tijuana organization. Later reports from the federal attorney general's office suggested that the missing body belonged to the son of Alicia Arellano Felix, one of the siblings of the Arellano Felix crime family that runs the Tijuana cartel. Reportedly there had been a strong security presence at the morgue prior to the theft to prevent any such action; the incident highlights how police forces are no match for well-equipped -- and well-informed -- cartels.
Authorities in Sinaloa state reported finding the body of a man along a highway. He had been bound at the hands and wrapped in a blanket.
A high-ranking police commander from Acambaro, Guanajuato state, was shot to death while driving along a rural road.
The director of public security in Toluca, Mexico state, was unhurt following an apparent attempt on his life when two men on a motorcycle fired several shots into his vehicle.
Two people died and one was wounded in a firefight involving automatic weapons and rival drug-trafficking gangs in Tamazula, Durango state.
Fire crews from Laredo, Texas, crossed the border to assist the Nuevo Laredo fire department in battling more than 20 fires across the city. Under a mutual aid request, a fire department source confirmed that arson was the cause of many of the blazes, which included grassfires and structural fires.
Two sailors in the Mexican navy were abducted by armed men from a bar in the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. A third who resisted the gunmen was wounded.
A plane believed to have been carrying more than 1 ton of cocaine made an emergency landing on a federal highway in Oaxaca state. The crew succeeded in unloading the cargo, setting fire to the plane and escaping before authorities arrived.
The bodies of a man and woman were found in Jalisco state. Each had been shot in the head.
A city employee discovered the dismembered body of an unidentified person in a dumpster in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua state. Body parts were found in two suitcases.
Two men were killed in their home in Durango state when armed men entered the residence and shot them several times. Police believe the men owed money to drug traffickers.
Authorities discovered the burned bodies of two unidentified men along a highway in Chiapas state. The men were bound at the hands and appeared to have been tortured.
A sailor in the Mexican navy was shot to death by several gunmen as he was walking along a street in Acapulco, Guerrero state. He reportedly was able to fire several rounds from a pistol before being killed.
Six armed men entered a hotel in the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza in Nuevo Leon state, stealing an ATM and the hotel safe. The gunmen subdued three employees and four guests during the incident and exchanged gunfire with police as they fled.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lebanon
on: November 19, 2007, 11:11:13 PM
Lebanon's fractured government has until Nov. 23 to elect a new president that is acceptable to both the pro-Syrian Hezbollah-led opposition and the pro-West March 14 coalition. With no compromise in sight, Hezbollah and its Syrian allies are readying plans to set up a shadow government in Beirut. Even by Lebanese standards, this is one political crisis that has the potential to plunge the country into all sorts of craziness.
Emile Lahoud's term as Lebanon's president expires Nov. 23. Under the country's constitution, the government has until that date to elect a new Christian president.
There are a few not-so-minor problems with this state of affairs, however. First and foremost, it must be remembered that this is Lebanon, where legalities do not generally take precedence in the political system. Hezbollah and its allies in the Shiite Amal Movement and Michel Aoun's Christian faction already have boycotted the government. Technically speaking, the pro-West faction led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora can elect a new president on its own through a very narrow, simple majority. But without the votes of Hezbollah and its allies, the election of the new president easily can be labeled illegitimate and illegal by a sizable political force in the country.
There are weighty issues at stake in this election, particularly for Syria. The Syrians steadily have reasserted their presence in Lebanon since the government was forced to withdraw its troops from the country in the wake of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Naturally, the Syrian regime wants to ensure that the new president -- who must be a Maronite Christian, according to the constitution -- is amenable, to say the least, to serving Syrian interests in Lebanon. At the same time, Syria's militant proxy, Hezbollah, is seeking to expand its political presence in the government and ensure that it faces no long-term threats to its survival as a movement.
The Siniora-led March 14 alliance, however, is on an entirely different page. This coalition is being heavily backed by the U.S., French and Saudi governments to counter Hezbollah and keep a tight rein on Syrian and Iranian influence in Lebanon. Though diplomats from the region, the United States, Europe and Russia have been flying in and out of Beirut in an effort to come up with the ultimate political resolution, the feuding factions are nowhere near a compromise, with only four days left until Lahoud's term expires.
Hezbollah and Syria essentially have drawn a red line. If a compromise cannot be reached and the Siniora-led faction calls a special session of parliament to elect its preferred candidate independently, plans likely will be activated to set up a shadow government in Beirut.
According to sources in the city, a security meeting recently took place between Syrian officials and Hezbollah to go over these contingency plans at the residence of Hussein Khalil, Hezbollah's political consultant, in the eastern Baalbek region. The plan that was agreed on involves the occupation of 20 ministries and public institutions in the greater Beirut area by a combined military-civilian force provided by Hezbollah. It also calls for storming the Sarai, the headquarters of the prime minister, and reopening by force the coastal highway between Beirut and Sidon, as well as the Damascus highway -- both of which lie within the Druze stronghold of Walid Jumblatt, who is allied with the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance. Controlling these key highways is central to Hezbollah's plans to set up a rival government. The Damascus highway links Hezbollah strongholds in the central and northern Bekaa Valley with Beirut's southern suburbs, while the coastal highway between Beirut and Sidon connects Hezbollah bases in the South with Beirut's southern suburbs.
Occupying ministries by force undoubtedly will be a complicated affair if this plan actually goes into effect. By law, the Lebanese army would have to step in to defend these institutions. But here again we have another problem, in that Lebanon's army already is deeply fractured and lacks the will to stand up to civilian protesters, much less to Hezbollah. Moreover, nearly half the army is comprised of Shia who will not necessarily go against their patrons in Hezbollah. Any foreign force that even attempts to intervene in such a scenario very rapidly will become bogged down in a domestic fight in which Hezbollah most likely will take the upper hand.
This plan by Hezbollah has long been in the making. Recently, Hezbollah replaced the party official in charge of the sit-in protest camps in downtown Beirut. While Hezbollah circulated rumors that the official was replaced because several of its members were caught smoking hashish in the downtown camp, the real reason was to prepare Hezbollah operatives for the coming confrontation by inserting a strong officer capable of mobilizing the group's human resources in downtown Beirut. Recruiting and training efforts by Hezbollah also have picked up speed in recent months, with hundreds of men from the militias of Lebanese opposition groups undergoing training in the area of Wadi al-Nabi, between the villages of Brital and Hour Taala in the Bekaa Valley.
There is no guarantee -- as of yet -- that Hezbollah's plan will be activated. After all, Syria traditionally plays politics in Lebanon via car bombings. If Damascus wants to deprive the March 14 alliance of its slim majority in parliament, it can take out another parliamentarian as a stopgap measure. There also is the possibility that Lahoud will appoint Lebanon's army chief, Michel Suleiman, to run the country in order to prevent Siniora's government from taking over. Suleiman has been singing a pro-Syrian tune in the past few months, making this a potentially viable option for Damascus.
In any case, the situation is turning explosive, even by Lebanese standards. The conflict will not be confined to Lebanon, either. The Iranians, the Syrians, the Americans, the French, the Saudis, the Jordanians and even the Turks will in a variety of ways become entangled in this crisis as the country further destabilizes. For a country whose government was designed to rule by consensus, the probability of a consensus candidate getting elected in the next few days is dangerously low, bringing Lebanon even closer to the dark days of civil war.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Are Traditional Martial Arts Dead?
on: November 19, 2007, 07:18:11 PM
May I suggest that we need to define "traditional martial arts" (TMA) as a starting point for the conversation?
The article seems to think that traditional "Chinese Martial Arts" (CMA) is a synonym for TMA, but is this really so?
The word "traditional" to me speaks of , , , tradition, of unbroken lineage. In this sense, Dog Brothers Martial Arts is a TMA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamic investing
on: November 19, 2007, 01:37:06 PM
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Why a Fund's Piety Is Now Paying Off
Islamic Principles Help
Amana Income Avoid
Banks, Other Risky Bets
By CAROLYN CUI
November 19, 2007; Page C1
The little-known mutual fund Amana Income Fund is one of this year's top performers. It can thank Islamic law for that.
The Amana fund is a specialized fund that invests based on Islamic religious principles. That means it must avoid, among other things, investing in banks or other firms that earn money by charging interest. Nor can it invest in companies carrying lots of debt.
This year these restrictions are paying off. The fund, which seeks well-established companies paying dividends, has largely avoided the mortgage-related carnage hitting the markets since the summer. The Amana Income Fund has returned 13% since the start of this year, and is ranked in the top 2% of its category. With shares of many banks and brokerage houses having plunged amid concerns over losses on mortgage-related securities, the average stock income fund is up only 3.6%, according to fund tracker Lipper Inc.
"It's good that you don't have [banks and financial companies] in periods like this year," says Nicholas Kaiser of Saturna Capital Corp., Bellingham, Wash., which manages the Amana funds. "It's great to be out of it."
Indeed, most mutual funds that invest based on Islamic principles have largely weathered the recent credit turmoil. Two Islamic funds offered by Azzad Asset Management, smaller than the Amana and its $333.1 million of assets, also are beating the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index since the start of this year, after trailing the broad market for several years.
Dow Jones Islamic Fund is up 13.3% year to date, which ranks it in the top 4% of its category of large- market-capitalization stocks. The fund, managed by Allied Asset Advisors, tracks the Dow Jones Islamic Market Index, which is a product of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
A sister Amana fund, Amana Growth Fund, isn't doing quite as well. The fund has $680 million of assets and invests in companies whose earnings are expected to rise faster than the broader market. It has returned 11.5% this year. While that beats the broader market, it still trails its growth-type peers by 1.4 percentage points.
Mr. Kaiser says the fund is basically looking for growth stocks that have such "value" characteristics as "reasonable" share price-to-earnings multiples, but this year the best performers were highflying stocks like Google Inc. "So some of our stocks didn't do well this year," he says.
Apart from financial stocks, Islamic funds, like other faith-based funds, also screen out so-called sin stocks, including alcohol, tobacco, gambling and weapons makers. They also must shun companies in pork-processing businesses and companies with a debt level higher or equal to 33%.
These rules eliminate from consideration about half of all the publicly traded stocks in the U.S. Out of the Russell 3000 Index -- which includes the 3,000 largest U.S. companies based on market capitalization and represents about 98% of U.S. stocks -- Amana has about 1,500 companies to choose from. By comparison, KLD Research & Analytics, a social-investing research firm, contains 2,100 stocks in its broad index.
Faith-based or socially conscious mutual funds -- there are numerous varieties -- tend to underperform the broader market. That is often because their blanket prohibition of certain sectors means they automatically rule out some good-performing stocks. At the same time, the added stock-picking research required by their social or religious criteria increases the cost of running such funds.
Amana funds have been a powerful rebuttal to this notion. In the past five years, both are among the top-returning funds in their respective categories, returning about 20% on an annualized basis.
Some of Amana's investment rules -- for instance, low turnover in buying and selling stocks, and aversion to debt -- make investing sense for long-term investors, says David Kathman, an analyst with Morningstar Inc.
Because of the low-debt restriction, Amana has found some good investments. Its growth fund started buying Washington Group International Inc., a construction firm, in January 2006 at $55 a share after Mr. Kaiser spotted its zero-debt level. "This looks good for us," he recalls saying. Amana recently sold the stock at $91.50 after the shares rallied on a takeover offer.
• The News: One of the top-performing mutual funds this year is Amana Income Fund, a little-known fund that adheres to Islamic principles.
• Behind the Scenes: Because Amana must avoid companies that earn money by charging interest or those with large debt loads, it has been largely spared fallout from the credit crunch.
• Bottom Line, for Now: Amana's returns belie the tendency of faith-based or socially conscious mutual funds to underperform the broader market.The Islamic rules have helped Amana dodge some bullets. Enron Corp., which then fit growth-fund criteria, was ruled out from Amana Growth Fund's holdings -- before the scandal was exposed -- because its debt level exceeded the 33% threshold, Mr. Kaiser says.
Saturna Capital uses guidelines set up and endorsed by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization of religious scholars dealing with issues concerning Muslims in North America.
Islamic law also forbids frequent trading of shares, since that is seen as a form of gambling. As a result, the turnover in the portfolios at Amana funds averages around just 10% each year, compared with 50% or more at a typical mutual fund. Lack of turnover is a contributor to performance, since shareholders are taxed for capital gains when managers sell stocks and make gains, and because of lower trading fees.
The 61-year-old Mr. Kaiser, who isn't Muslim himself, is concerned about the subprime spillover to his funds. As a big part of the U.S. economy "is based on home buying and loans -- that's going to drop off quite a bit," he says, leading people to cut consumption in retails and gasoline. "We have a lot of [those] stocks in our portfolios. If we have a major recession, I don't think we are immune from it just because we are not in those [financial] sectors," he said.
Amana's consistent performance appears to be attracting more non-Muslim investors. In the past 18 months, the two funds have increased from $288 million in assets to more than $1 billion combined. Of course, it is impossible to know for certain the religious persuasion of any given investor in a mutual fund, but by their names "we can pretty much tell they are non-Muslims," Mr. Kaiser says. "They just went for performance."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care
on: November 19, 2007, 01:15:00 PM
Foreign Health Affairs
By REGINA E. HERZLINGER
November 19, 2007; Page A18
America, a nation prone to love at first sight with seductive health-care fixes, is now falling for the systems of the Netherlands and Switzerland. Their representatives recently displayed their dowry in D.C., and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt personally checked out the potential brides earlier this month.
Beware: The last time we fell in love, it was with managed care, as exemplified by California's Kaiser Permanente. But the Kaiser model proved difficult to replicate outside of California, even for Kaiser itself. The version of managed care we got was of the "Just Say No" variety: "No" to enrollee requests and provider referrals. It has made a mess of our health-care system.
Though media accounts lump the systems of Switzerland and the Netherlands together, they are profoundly different. There are things to be learned from each, though neither presents a complete model the U.S. should emulate.
The Swiss and Dutch systems share one terrific feature -- universal coverage. Americans increasingly want this. Both achieve universal coverage using private sector insurers, at far lower cost than the U.S. -- 12% of GDP for Switzerland and 10% for the Dutch, versus a staggering 15% for the U.S. in 2003. They also have far better health outcomes than the U.S., even when Switzerland is compared to socio-demographically similar U.S. states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts. The sick in both countries can afford to buy health insurance, and also pay the same price. Yet private insurers compete in the market because they are paid more for sick enrollees through various risk-adjustment systems.
But the devil is in the details.
The Swiss are required to buy health insurance themselves, using their own money -- they account for 65% of health care expenditures. If individuals cannot afford it, most Cantons transfer funds to them. There are neither employer nor government health-insurance programs for the poor or elderly. The Swiss government accounts for only a quarter of the health-care spending versus nearly 50% for the U.S.
The Swiss system is consumer-driven because consumers themselves pay for their purchases. The Dutch government, in contrast, funds consumers to purchase their own health insurance to a much greater extent -- five million people in the country are on some sort of government dole. Thus, when the Dutch buy their insurance, they may think they are using other people's money.
The results? The Swiss have lower health-care inflation -- 2.8% versus 4.1% for the Dutch and the U.S. from 1996-2003 -- and substantially more in the way of health-care resources. And Switzerland tops the world in most measures of user satisfaction.
The 93 private insurance companies that compete in Switzerland dwarf the 41 in the Netherlands. Swiss providers also compete because, in addition to paying for their health insurance, the Swiss pay for nearly 32% of their health-care services out of their own pockets, as compared with only 8% for the Dutch. Yet even with its limitations, Dutch health-care inflation fell from the time when Dutch employers bought health care, and waiting lists have reportedly tumbled.
Nevertheless, the Swiss system is hardly perfect. On the demand side, the government limits insurance competition with requirements for extensive minimum benefit packages and considerable micromanagement of prices. Imagine a car market in which the government designs the vehicles and stringently oversees distributors' prices. Pretty soon all the cars would come with features we do not necessarily want -- heated seats -- at a price we do not want to pay.
Even worse is the Swiss government's micromanagement of medical care suppliers. Unwisely adopting the U.S. government's Medicare payment system, it not only dictates medical care prices but also specifies the bundles of care for which it will pay. This kind of micromanagement discourages innovation. For example, when Duke Medical Center lowered the costs of treating congestive heart patients by 40% in only one year with innovations that improved health status, it lost nearly all the savings it created. The U.S. government pays only for activities like hospital stays and doctor visits. Perversely, medical innovators who improve health and reduce hospital visits, lose money.
So before we latch on to the Dutch or Swiss models, let's be careful. Yes, the consumer-driven health care of these two nations is clearly the better model for implementing universal coverage. But their governments' micromanagement of the prices of insurers and providers should be avoided, not emulated. Instead, government should help lower-income people, enforce transparency, prosecute fraud and abuse -- but otherwise get out of the way.
Ms. Herzlinger is professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She is the author of "Who Killed Health Care?" (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: November 19, 2007, 01:06:25 PM
Mi Casa, Sue Casa
Nancy Pelosi tries to force the Salvation Army to hire people who can't speak English.
Monday, November 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
It's been less than a week since New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Eliot Spitzer had to climb down from their support of driver's licenses for illegal aliens. Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has moved to kill an amendment that would protect employers from federal lawsuits for requiring their workers to speak English. Among the employers targeted by such lawsuits: the Salvation Army.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a moderate Republican from Tennessee, is dumbstruck that legislation he views as simple common sense would be blocked. He noted that the full Senate passed his amendment to shield the Salvation Army by 75-19 last month, and the House followed suit with a 218-186 vote just this month. "I cannot imagine that the framers of the 1964 Civil Rights Act intended to say that it's discrimination for a shoe shop owner to say to his or her employee, 'I want you to be able to speak America's common language on the job,' " he told the Senate last Thursday.
But that's exactly what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is trying to do. In March the EEOC sued the Salvation Army because its thrift store in Framingham, Mass., required its employees to speak English on the job. The requirement was clearly posted and employees were given a year to learn the language. The EEOC claimed the store had fired two Hispanic employees for continuing to speak Spanish on the job. It said that the firings violated the law because the English-only policy was not "relevant" to job performance or safety.
"If it is not relevant, it is discriminatory, it is gratuitous, it is a subterfuge to discriminate against people based on national origin," says Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, one of several Hispanic Democrats in the House who threatened to block Ms. Pelosi's attempts to curtail the Alternative Minimum Tax unless she killed the Alexander amendment.
The confrontation on the night of Nov. 8 was ugly. Members of the Hispanic Caucus initially voted against the rule allowing debate on a tax bill that included the AMT "patch," which for a year would protect some 23 million Americans from being kicked into a higher income tax bracket.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a moderate from Maryland, was beside himself. Congressional Quarterly reports that he jabbed his finger on the House floor at Joe Baca, the California Democrat who chairs the Hispanic Caucus, and yelled, "How dare you destroy this party? This will be the worst loss in 10 years."
Mr. Baca was having none of it. "You see this on the [voting] board?," he yelled back. "This is against me. This is against me personally." Luckily for Democrats, C-Span's microphones did not pick up the exchange. But it was audible to reporters in the press gallery. They also heard Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois say that English-only efforts were symbolic of "bigotry and prejudice" against those who speak other languages.
After testy negotiations, the Hispanic Caucus finally agreed to let the tax bill proceed after extracting a promise from Ms. Pelosi that the House will not vote on the bill funding the Justice and Commerce Departments unless the English-only protection language is dropped. "There ain't going to be a bill" with the Alexander language, Mr. Baca has told reporters.
Sen. Alexander says that if that's the case, "thousands of small businesses across America will have to show there is some special reason to justify requiring their employees to speak our country's common language on the job." He notes that the number of EEOC actions against English-only policies grew to some 200 last year from 32 a decade ago. In an attempt at compromise, he has offered watered-down language that would still allow the EEOC to file many actions, but he says House Democrats rejected it.
Mr. Alexander says his battle is about far more than what language is spoken on a shop floor. "The EEOC actions turn diversity, our greatest strength, against the interests of our common future as Americans," he told me.
The late Albert Shanker, head of the American Federation of Teachers, once pointed out that public schools were established in this country largely "to help mostly immigrant children learn the three R's and what it means to be an American, with the hope that they would go home and teach their parents the principles in the Constitution and the Declaration that unite us."
Mr. Alexander says that noble effort is in danger of being undermined: "We have spent the last 40 years in our country celebrating diversity at the expense of unity. One way to create that unity is to value, not devalue, our common language, English."
The battle over Mr. Alexander's amendment is about whether a consensus that used to unite liberals and conservatives in this country can continue to hold. If it can't, expect the issue to become a flashpoint in the 2008 elections. Republicans have their political problems with Hispanics over some of their approaches to illegal immigration, but they may be nothing compared to the problems Democrats have if they continue to cave in to their anti-assimilation extremists.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market
on: November 19, 2007, 07:02:11 AM
I disagree with much that PB writes here.
Concerning the crash of '29 and the Great Depression that followed: Yes the Fed made things worse AFTER the market crashed, but this does not explain that there was a world-wide depression until WW2. PB is wrong-- the Great Depression was exactly because of the fragmentation of the world-wide economy brought on by beggar they neighbor devaluations, and tariffs and duties such as the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act and its analogues in our trading partners. FDR killed a nascent recovery of the stock market by increasing taxes in his first term. Jude Wanniski's analysis in his brilliant "The Way the World Works" is in my opinion, the correct analysis of this history.
PB is right that Bernake is on the horns of a dilema. What he misses is this is because monetary policy is only half the problem and solution. Tax policy is also half the problem and solution. Yes the Fed has been too loose and needs to stop it, but the real issue is tax rates. While we have not been looking, the various Euros have simplified and lowered their taxes and investment capital flows, which dwarfy trade flows, now flow to Europe. Despite this, the Dems, who look likely to win, are talking massive tax increases (Rangel's plan, various plans of the Dem candidates, the general nature of Dems). These tax increases (including accepting the end of the Bush tax cuts) if enacted, will tip the US into a severe recession and stagflation. THIS is the problem in my opinion.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams, Webster, Reagan
on: November 19, 2007, 06:46:20 AM
"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated
seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator
and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt,
molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for
worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of
his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments;
provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others
in their religious worship."
-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)
Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 221.
THE FOUNDATION: ARMS
“The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States.” —Noah Webster
“The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is servant and not master of the governed. When the British forgot that they got a revolution. And, as a result, we Americans got a Constitution; a Constitution that, as those who wrote it were determined, would keep men free. If we give up part of that Constitution we give up part of our freedom and increase the chance that we will lose it all. I am not ready to take that risk. I believe that the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms must not be infringed if liberty in America is to survive.” —Ronald Reagan
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe
on: November 19, 2007, 06:40:33 AM
Let the howl go forth:
Cat Linda Matsumi make Candidate , , , well, what do we call a woman candidate for , , , Dog Brotherhood? As we were sitting there with burgers and brews at the post Gathering shindig, Linda herself requested , , , drum roll please , , , "Bitch"
So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you "Linda Candidate Bitch Matsumi".
There were a couple of more ascensions, but will post later about them. I want to check our records to make sure I get the names right.
The Adventure continues,
Council of Elders
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WMDs-- a new interpretation
on: November 18, 2007, 08:27:17 AM
Shattering Conventional Wisdom About Saddam's WMD's
By John Loftus
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 16, 2007
Finally, there are some definitive answers to the mystery of the missing WMD. Civilian volunteers, mostly retired intelligence officers belonging to the non-partisan IntelligenceSummit.org, have been poring over the secret archives captured from Saddam Hussein. The inescapable conclusion is this: Saddam really did have WMD after all, but not in the way the Bush administration believed. A 9,000 word research paper with citations to each captured document has been posted online at LoftusReport.com, along with translations of the captured Iraqi documents, courtesy of Mr. Ryan Mauro and his friends.
This Iraqi document research has been supplemented with satellite photographs and dozens of interviews, among them David Gaubatz who risked radiation exposure to locate Saddam’s underwater WMD warehouses , and John Shaw, whose brilliant detective work solved the puzzle of where the WMD went. Both have contributed substantially to solving one of the most difficult mysteries of our decade.
The absolutists on either side of the WMD debate will be more than a bit chagrinned at these disclosures. The documents show a much more complex history than previously suspected. The "Bush lied, people died" chorus has insisted that Saddam had no WMD whatsoever after 1991 - and thus that WMD was no good reason for the war. The Neocon diehards insist that, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the treasure-trove is still out there somewhere, buried under the sand dunes of Iraq. Each side is more than a little bit wrong about Saddam's WMD, and each side is only a little bit right about what happened to it.
The gist of the new evidence is this: roughly one quarter of Saddam's WMD was destroyed under UN pressure during the early to mid 1990's. Saddam sold approximately another quarter of his weapons stockpile to his Arab neighbors during the mid to late 1990's. The Russians insisted on removing another quarter in the last few months before the war. The last remaining WMD, the contents of Saddam's nuclear weapons labs, were still inside Iraq on the day when the coalition forces arrived in 2003. His nuclear weapons equipment was hidden in enormous underwater warehouses beneath the Euphrates River. Saddam’s entire nuclear inventory was later stolen from these warehouses right out from under the Americans’ noses. The theft of the unguarded Iraqi nuclear stockpile is perhaps, the worst scandal of the war, suggesting a level of extreme incompetence and gross dereliction of duty that makes the Hurricane Katrina debacle look like a model of efficiency.
Without pointing fingers at the Americans, the Israeli government now believes that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear stockpiles have ended up in weapons dumps in Syria. Debkafile, a somewhat reliable private Israeli intelligence service, has recently published a report claiming that the Syrians were importing North Korean plutonium to be mixed with Saddam’s enriched uranium. Allegedly, the Syrians were close to completing a warhead factory next to Saddam’s WMD dump in Deir al Zour, Syria to produce hundreds, if not thousands, of super toxic “dirty bombs” that would pollute wherever they landed in Israel for the next several thousands of years. Debka alleged that it was this combination factory/WMD dump site which was the target of the recent Israeli air strike in Deir al Zour province..
Senior sources in the Israeli government have privately confirmed to me that the recent New York Times articles and satellite photographs about the Israeli raid on an alleged Syrian nuclear target in Al Tabitha, Syria were of the completely wrong location. Armed with this knowledge, I searched Google Earth satellite photos for the rest of the province of Deir al Zour for a site that would match the unofficial Israeli descriptions: camouflaged black factory building, next to a military ammunition dump, between an airport and an orchard. There is a clear match in only one location, Longitude 35 degrees, 16 minutes 49.31 seconds North, Latitude 40 degrees, 3 minutes, 29.97 seconds East. Analysts and members of the public are invited to determine for themselves whether this was indeed the weapons dump for Saddam’s WMD.
Photos of this complex taken after the Israel raid appear to show that all of the buildings, earthern blast berms, bunkers, roads, even the acres of blackened topsoil, have all been dug up and removed. All that remains are what appear to be smoothed over bomb craters. Of course, that is not of itself definitive proof, but it is extremely suspicious.
It should be noted that the American interrogators had accurate information about a possible Deir al Zour location shortly after the war, but ignored it:
"An Iraqi dissident going by the name of "Abu Abdallah" claims that on March 10, 2003, 50 trucks arrived in Deir Al-Zour, Syria after being loaded in Baghdad. …Abdallah approached his friend who was hesitant to confirm the WMD shipment, but did after Abdallah explained what his sources informed him of. The friend told him not to tell anyone about the shipment."
These interrogation reports should be re-evaluated in light of the recently opened Iraqi secret archives, which we submit are the best evidence. But the captured document evidence should not be overstated. It must be emphasized that there is no one captured Saddam document which mentions both the possession of WMD and the movement to Syria.
Moreover, many of Saddam's own tapes and documents concerning chemical and biological weapons are ambiguous. When read together as a mosaic whole, Saddam's secret files certainly make a persuasive case of massive WMD acquisition right up to a few months before the war. Not only was he buying banned precursors for nerve gas, he was ordering the chemicals to make Zyklon B, the Nazis favorite gas at Auschwitz. However odious and well documented his purchases in 2002, there is no direct evidence of any CW or BW actually remaining inside Iraq on the day the war started in 2003. As stated in more detail in my full report, the British, Ukrainian and American secret services all believed that the Russians had organized a last minute evacuation of CW and BW stockpiles from Baghdad to Syria.
We know from Saddam’s documents that huge quantities of CW and BW were in fact produced, and there is no record of their destruction. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Therefore, at least as to chemical and biological weapons, the evidence is compelling, but not conclusive. There is no one individual document or audiotape that contains a smoking gun.
There is no ambiguity, however, about captured tape ISGQ-2003-M0007379, in which Saddam is briefed on his secret nuclear weapons project. This meeting clearly took place in 2002 or afterwards: almost a decade after the State Department claimed that Saddam had abandoned his nuclear weapons research.
Moreover the tape describes a laser enrichment process for uranium that had never been known by the UN inspectors to even exist in Iraq, and Saddam's nuclear briefers on the tape were Iraqi scientists who had never been on any weapons inspector’s list. The tape explicitly discusses how civilian plasma research could be used as a cover for military plasma research necessary to build a hydrogen bomb.
When this tape came to the attention of the International Intelligence Summit, a non-profit, non-partisan educational forum focusing on global intelligence affairs, the organization asked the NSA to verify the voiceprints of Saddam and his cronies, invited a certified translator to present Saddam’s nuclear tapes to the public, and then invited leading intelligence analysts to comment.
At the direct request of the Summit, President Bush promptly overruled his national intelligence adviser, John Negroponte, a career State Department man, and ordered that the rest of the captured Saddam tapes and documents be reviewed as rapidly as possible. The Intelligence Summit asked that Saddam's tapes and documents be posted on a public website so that Arabic-speaking volunteers could help with the translation and analysis.
At first, the public website seemed like a good idea. Another document was quickly discovered, dated November 2002, describing an expensive plan to remove radioactive contamination from an isotope production building. The document cites the return of UNMOVIC inspectors as the reason for cleaning up the evidence of radioactivity. This is not far from a smoking gun: there were not supposed to be any nuclear production plants in Iraq in 2002.
Then a barrage of near-smoking guns opened up. Document after document from Saddam's files was posted unread on the public website, each one describing how to make a nuclear bomb in more detail than the last. These documents, dated just before the war, show that Saddam had accumulated just about every secret there was for the construction of nuclear weapons. The Iraqi intelligence files contain so much accurate information on the atom bomb that the translators’ public website had to be closed for reasons of national security.
If Saddam had nuclear weapons facilities, where was he hiding them? Iraqi informants showed US investigators where Saddam had constructed huge underwater storage facilities beneath the Euphrates River. The tunnel entrances were still sealed with tons of concrete. The US investigators who approached the sealed entrances were later determined to have been exposed to radiation. Incredibly, their reports were lost in the postwar confusion, and Saddam’s underground nuclear storage sites were left unguarded for the next three years. Still, the eyewitness testimony about the sealed underwater warehouses matched with radiation exposure is strong circumstantial evidence that some amount of radioactive material was still present in Iraq on the day the war began.
Our volunteer researchers discovered the actual movement order from the Iraqi high command ordering all the remaining special equipment to be moved into the underground sites only a few weeks before the onset of the war. The date of the movement order suggests that President Bush, who clearly knew nothing of the specifics of the underground nuclear sites, or even that a nuclear weapons program still existed in Iraq, may have been accidentally correct about the main point of the war: the discovery of Saddam’s secret nuclear program, even in hindsight, arguably provides sufficient legal justification for the previous use of force.
Saddam’s nuclear documents compel any reasonable person to the conclusion that, more probably than not, there were in fact nuclear WMD sites, components, and programs hidden inside Iraq at the time the Coalition forces invaded. In view of these newly discovered documents, it can be concluded, more probably than not, that Saddam did have a nuclear weapons program in 2001-2002, and that it is reasonably certain that he would have continued his efforts towards making a nuclear bomb in 2003 had he not been stopped by the Coalition forces. Four years after the war began, we still do not have all the answers, but we have many of them. Ninety percent of the Saddam files have never been read, let alone translated. It is time to utterly reject the conventional wisdom that there were no WMD in Iraq and look to the best evidence: Saddam’s own files on WMD. The truth is what it is, the documents speak for themselves.
John Loftus is President of IntelligenceSummit.org, which is entirely free of government funding, and depends solely upon private contributions for its support. The full research paper on Iraqi WMD, along with the supporting documents and photographs can be found at www.LoftusReport.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: November 18, 2007, 08:02:17 AM
Pakistan’s Collapse, Our Problem
By FREDERICK W. KAGAN and MICHAEL O’HANLON
Published: November 18, 2007
AS the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.
We do not intend to be fear mongers. Pakistan’s officer corps and ruling elites remain largely moderate and more interested in building a strong, modern state than in exporting terrorism or nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. But then again, Americans felt similarly about the shah’s regime in Iran until it was too late.
Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence services contain enough sympathizers and supporters of the Afghan Taliban, and enough nationalists bent on seizing the disputed province of Kashmir from India, that there are grounds for real worries.
The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
All possible military initiatives to avoid those possibilities are daunting. With 160 million people, Pakistan is more than five times the size of Iraq. It would take a long time to move large numbers of American forces halfway across the world. And unless we had precise information about the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials, we could not rely on bombing or using Special Forces to destroy them.
The task of stabilizing a collapsed Pakistan is beyond the means of the United States and its allies. Rule-of-thumb estimates suggest that a force of more than a million troops would be required for a country of this size. Thus, if we have any hope of success, we would have to act before a complete government collapse, and we would need the cooperation of moderate Pakistani forces.
One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.
For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops. It is realistic to think that such a mission might be undertaken within days of a decision to act. The price for rapid action and secrecy, however, would probably be a very small international coalition.
A second, broader option would involve supporting the core of the Pakistani armed forces as they sought to hold the country together in the face of an ineffective government, seceding border regions and Al Qaeda and Taliban assassination attempts against the leadership. This would require a sizable combat force — not only from the United States, but ideally also other Western powers and moderate Muslim nations.
Even if we were not so committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western powers would need months to get the troops there. Fortunately, given the longstanding effectiveness of Pakistan’s security forces, any process of state decline probably would be gradual, giving us the time to act.
So, if we got a large number of troops into the country, what would they do? The most likely directive would be to help Pakistan’s military and security forces hold the country’s center — primarily the region around the capital, Islamabad, and the populous areas like Punjab Province to its south.
We would also have to be wary of internecine warfare within the Pakistani security forces. Pro-American moderates could well win a fight against extremist sympathizers on their own. But they might need help if splinter forces or radical Islamists took control of parts of the country containing crucial nuclear materials. The task of retaking any such regions and reclaiming custody of any nuclear weapons would be a priority for our troops.
If a holding operation in the nation’s center was successful, we would probably then seek to establish order in the parts of Pakistan where extremists operate. Beyond propping up the state, this would benefit American efforts in Afghanistan by depriving terrorists of the sanctuaries they have long enjoyed in Pakistan’s tribal and frontier regions.
The great paradox of the post-cold war world is that we are both safer, day to day, and in greater peril than before. There was a time when volatility in places like Pakistan was mostly a humanitarian worry; today it is as much a threat to our basic security as Soviet tanks once were. We must be militarily and diplomatically prepared to keep ourselves safe in such a world. Pakistan may be the next big test.
Frederick W. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: November 18, 2007, 07:56:36 AM
Another one from today's NY Times-- this one by arch liberal Maureen Dowd:
Shake, Rattle and Roll
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: November 18, 2007
Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Go to Columnist Page » The debate dominatrix knows how to rattle Obambi.
Mistress Hillary started disciplining her fellow senator last winter, after he began exploring a presidential bid. When he winked at her, took her elbow and tried to say hello on the Senate floor, she did not melt, as many women do. She brushed him off, a move meant to remind him that he was an upstart who should not get in the way of her turn in the Oval Office.
He was so shook up, he called a friend to say: You would not believe what just happened with Hillary.
She has continued to flick the whip in debates. She usually ignores Obama and John Edwards backstage, preferring to chat with the so-called second-tier candidates. And she often looks so unapproachable while they’re setting up on stage that Obama seems hesitant to be the first to say hi.
With so much at stake, she had to do it again in Vegas, this time using her voice, gaze and body language to such punishing effect that Obama looked as if he had been brought to heel. It was a mesmerizing display, and at an event that drew the highest television ratings of any primary debate this year. The momentum Obama had gained from a vivid speech at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Iowa drained away by the end of the first half-hour.
Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn’t even be looking for a chance to greet Hillary, as Obama always does. Other guys, like Rudy, wouldn’t care if she iced them.
But she can tell that Obama does care, that he doesn’t want her to not like him or be mad at him, that he responds to the sort of belittling treatment that she sometimes dished out to her husband and his male aides at the White House, yelling at them and calling them wimps if they disappointed her.
Obama may be responsive to Hillary’s moods because he lives with another strong woman who knows how to keep him in line. Michelle said she let her husband run for president only when he agreed to give up smoking, and she’s a master at the art of the loving conjugal put-down.
When Hillary walked onstage Thursday, Obama stood to her left waiting to shake hands and say hi, as he and Edwards had done with Chris Dodd. She turned her body away, refused to meet his eyes and froze him out. Again. And he looked taken aback. Again.
For the rest of the night she owned him. He was so off his game that he duplicated her dithering performance from the last debate on the issue of whether illegal immigrants should get driver’s licenses. After a tortured exchange with Wolf Blitzer, he ended up saying he favored it — one more sign that the law professor is oblivious to the visceral nature of campaigns.
Hillary brazenly leapt away from that politically devastating position and said she didn’t support the licenses anymore. And Obama didn’t even call her out on her third reversal on the matter.
She was willing to absorb the flip-flop criticism to cut her losses on an issue that could have dragged her to defeat in the general election.
Obama and Edwards, who both seemed shaken by a few seconds of pro-Hillary booing, let the front-runner set a ludicrous standard: that any criticism of her shifts on issues is “mudslinging” and a character attack.
She is a control freak — that’s why her campaign tried to coach wonky Iowa voters to ask wonky questions — and her male rivals are letting her take control.
The Democrats should not be afraid to mix it up now, while they have a chance, and get all the doubts and disputes out on the table. Taking some flak clearly made Hillary stronger.
If Rudy’s the nominee, he will go with relish to all the vulnerable places in Hillary’s past. At the Federalist Society on Friday, he had barely spoken the word “she” before the audience began tittering appreciatively.
He went through a whole faux- bemused riff on Hillary’s driver’s license twists without ever uttering her name: “First, she was for the idea, and supported Governor Spitzer, who wanted to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Then she was against the idea. Then she was for and against the idea. And then finally she said it should be decided on a state-by-state basis. This is the only time in her career that she’s ever decided anything should be decided on a state-by-state basis. You know something? She picked out absolutely the wrong one. Right? I mean, this is one of the areas that is given to the federal government to deal with under our Constitution, the borders of the United States, immigration.”
Rudy laced his speech with faith references, including the assertion that America has “a divinely inspired role in the world” and a mission to “save a civilization from Islamic terrorism.”
Hillary has her work cut out for her. Rudy will not be so easy to spank.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: November 18, 2007, 07:52:19 AM
What ‘That Regan Woman’ Knows
New York Times
By FRANK RICH
Published: November 18, 2007
NEW Yorkers who remember Rudy Giuliani as the bullying New York mayor, not as the terminally cheerful “America’s Mayor” cooing to babies in New Hampshire, have always banked on one certainty: his presidential candidacy was so preposterous it would implode before he got anywhere near the White House.
Surely, we reassured ourselves, the all-powerful Republican values enforcers were so highly principled that they would excommunicate him because of his liberal social views, three wives and estranged children. Or a firewall would be erected by the firefighters who are enraged by his self-aggrandizing rewrite of 9/11 history. Or Judith Giuliani, with her long-hidden first marriage and Louis Vuitton ’tude, would send red-state voters screaming into the night.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. But how quickly and stupidly we forgot about the other Judith in the Rudy orbit. That would be Judith Regan, who disappeared last December after she was unceremoniously fired from Rupert Murdoch’s publishing house, HarperCollins. Last week Ms. Regan came roaring back into the fray, a silver bullet aimed squarely at the heart of the Giuliani campaign.
Ms. Regan filed a $100 million lawsuit against her former employer, claiming she was unjustly made a scapegoat for the O. J. Simpson “If I Did It” fiasco that (briefly) embarrassed Mr. Murdoch and his News Corporation. But for those of us not caught up in the Simpson circus, what’s most riveting about the suit are two at best tangential sentences in its 70 pages: “In fact, a senior executive in the News Corporation organization told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign. This executive advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.”
Kerik, of course, is Bernard Kerik, the former Giuliani chauffeur and police commissioner, as well as the candidate he pushed to be President Bush’s short-lived nominee to run the Department of Homeland Security. Having pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors last year, Mr. Kerik was indicted on 16 other counts by a federal grand jury 10 days ago, just before Ms. Regan let loose with her lawsuit. Whether Ms. Regan’s charge about that unnamed Murdoch “senior executive” is true or not — her lawyers have yet to reveal the evidence — her overall message is plain. She knows a lot about Mr. Kerik, Mr. Giuliani and the Murdoch empire. And she could talk.
Boy, could she! As New Yorkers who have crossed her path or followed her in the tabloids know, Ms. Regan has an epic temper. My first encounter with her came more than a decade ago when she left me a record-breaking (in vitriol and decibel level) voice mail message about a column I’d written on one of her authors. It was a relief to encounter a more mellow Regan at a Midtown restaurant some years later. She cordially introduced me to her dinner companion, Mr. Kerik, whose post-9/11 autobiography, “The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice,” was under contract at her HarperCollins imprint, ReganBooks.
What I didn’t know then was that this married author and single editor were in pursuit of not just justice, but sex, too. Their love nest, we’d later learn, was an apartment adjacent to ground zero that had been initially set aside for rescue workers. Mr. Kerik believed his lover had every moral right to be there. As he tenderly explained in his acknowledgments in “The Lost Son” — published before the revelation of their relationship — there was “one hero who is missing” from his book’s tribute to “courage and honor” and “her name is Judith Regan.”
Few know more about Rudy than his perennial boon companion, Mr. Kerik. Perhaps during his romance with Ms. Regan he talked only of the finer points of memoir writing or about his theories of crime prevention or about his ideas for training the police in the Muslim world (an assignment he later received in Iraq and botched). But it is also plausible that this couple discussed everything Mr. Kerik witnessed at Mr. Giuliani’s side before, during and after 9/11. Perhaps he even explained to her why the mayor insisted, disastrously, that his city’s $61 million emergency command center be located in the World Trade Center despite the terrorist attack on the towers in 1993.
Perhaps, too, they talked about the business ventures the mayor established after leaving office. Mr. Kerik worked at Giuliani Partners and used its address as a mail drop for some $75,000 that turns up in the tax-fraud charges in his federal indictment. That money was Mr. Kerik’s pay for an 11-sentence introduction to another Regan-published book about 9/11, “In the Line of Duty.” Though that project’s profits were otherwise donated to the families of dead rescue workers, Mr. Kerik’s royalties were mailed to Giuliani Partners in the name of a corporate entity Mr. Kerik set up in Delaware. He would later claim that he made comparable donations to charity, but the federal indictment charges that $80,000 he took in charitable deductions were bogus.
Amazingly, given that he seeks the highest office in the land, Mr. Giuliani will not reveal the clients of Giuliani Partners. Perhaps he has trouble remembering them all. He testified in court last year that he has no memory of a mayoral briefing in which he was told of Mr. Kerik’s association with a company suspected of ties to organized crime.
Ms. Regan’s knowledge of Mr. Giuliani isn’t limited to whatever she learned from Mr. Kerik. She used to work for another longtime Giuliani pal, Roger Ailes, the media consultant for the first Giuliani campaign in 1989 and the impresario who created Fox News for Mr. Murdoch in 1996. A full-service mayor to his cronies, Mr. Giuliani lobbied hard to get the Fox News Channel on the city’s cable boxes and presided over Mr. Ailes’s wedding. Enter Ms. Regan, who was given her own program on Fox’s early lineup. Mr. Ailes came up with its rather inspired first title, “That Regan Woman.”
Who at the News Corporation supposedly asked Ms. Regan to lie to protect Rudy’s secrets? Her complaint does not say. But thanks to the political journal The Hotline, we do know that as of the summer Mr. Giuliani had received more air time from Fox News than any other G.O.P. candidate, much of it on the high-rated “Hannity & Colmes.” That show’s co-host, Sean Hannity, appeared at a Giuliani campaign fund-raiser this year.
Fox News coverage of Ms. Regan’s lawsuit last week was minimal. After all, Mr. Giuliani dismissed the whole episode as “a gossip column story,” and we know Fox would never stoop so low as to trade in gossip. The coverage was scarcely more intense at The Wall Street Journal, whose print edition included no mention of the suit’s reference to that “senior executive” at the News Corporation. (After bloggers noticed, the article was amended online.) The Journal is not quite yet a Murdoch property, but its editorial board has had its own show on Fox News since 2006.
During the 1990s, the Journal editorial board published so much dirt about the Clintons that it put the paper’s brand on an encyclopedic six-volume anthology titled “A Journal Briefing — Whitewater.” You’d think the controversies surrounding “America’s Mayor” are at least as sexy as the carnal scandals and alleged drug deals The Journal investigated back then. This month a Journal reporter not on its editorial board added the government of Qatar to the small list of known Giuliani Partners clients, among them the manufacturer of OxyContin. We’ll see if such journalism flourishes in the paper’s Murdoch era.
But beyond New York’s dailies and The Village Voice, the national news media, conspicuously the big three television networks, have rarely covered Mr. Giuliani much more aggressively than Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News has. They are more likely to focus on Mr. Giuliani’s checkered family history than the questions raised by his record in government and business. It’s astounding how many are willing to look the other way while recycling those old 9/11 videos.
One exception is The Chicago Tribune, which last month on its front page revisited the story of how, after Mr. Giuliani left office, his mayoral papers were temporarily transferred to a private, tax-exempt foundation run by his supporters and financed with $1.5 million from mostly undisclosed donors. The foundation, which shares the same address as Giuliani Partners, copied and archived the records before sending them back to New York’s municipal archives. Historians told The Tribune there’s no way to verify that the papers were returned to government custody intact. Mayor Bloomberg has since signed a law that will prevent this unprecedented deal from being repeated.
Journalists, like generals, love to refight the last war, so the unavailability of millions of Hillary Clinton’s papers has received all the coverage the Giuliani campaign has been spared. But while the release of those first lady records should indeed be accelerated, it’s hard to imagine many more scandals will turn up after six volumes of “Whitewater,” an impeachment trial and the avalanche of other investigative reportage on the Clintons then and now.
The Giuliani story, by contrast, is relatively virgin territory. And with the filing of a lawsuit by a vengeful eyewitness who was fired from her job, it may just have gained its own reincarnation of Linda Tripp.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Deterrent effect of Capital Punishment?
on: November 18, 2007, 07:31:47 AM
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: November 18, 2007
For the first time in a generation, the question of whether the death penalty deters murders has captured the attention of scholars in law and economics, setting off an intense new debate about one of the central justifications for capital punishment.
Uses and Abuses of Empirical Evidence in the Death Penalty Debate, by John J. Donohue and Justin Wolfers (Stanford Law Review, December 2005)
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions and Life-Life Trade-offs, by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermuele (Stanford Law Review, December 2005)
Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence From Post-moratorium Panel Data, by Hashem Dezhbaksh, Paul H. Rubin and Joanna M. Shepherd (American Law and Economics Review 2003)
Deterrence Versus Brutalization: Capital Punsishment's Differing Impacts Among States, by Joanna Shepherd (Michigan Law Review, November 2005)
Prison Conditions, Capital Punishment and Deterrence, by Lawrence Katz, Steven D. Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich (American Law and Economics Review 2003)
Getting Off Death Row: Commuted Sentences and the Deterrent Effect of Capital Punishment, by H. Naci Mocan and R. Kaj Gittings (Journal of Law and Economics, October 2003)
Capital Punishment and Capital Murder: Market Share and the Deterrent Effects of the Death Penalty, by Jeffrey Fagan, Franklin E. Zimring and Amanda Geller (Texas Law Review, June 2006)
According to roughly a dozen recent studies, executions save lives. For each inmate put to death, the studies say, 3 to 18 murders are prevented.
The effect is most pronounced, according to some studies, in Texas and other states that execute condemned inmates relatively often and relatively quickly.
The studies, performed by economists in the past decade, compare the number of executions in different jurisdictions with homicide rates over time — while trying to eliminate the effects of crime rates, conviction rates and other factors — and say that murder rates tend to fall as executions rise. One influential study looked at 3,054 counties over two decades.
“I personally am opposed to the death penalty,” said H. Naci Mocan, an economist at Louisiana State University and an author of a study finding that each execution saves five lives. “But my research shows that there is a deterrent effect.”
The studies have been the subject of sharp criticism, much of it from legal scholars who say that the theories of economists do not apply to the violent world of crime and punishment. Critics of the studies say they are based on faulty premises, insufficient data and flawed methodologies.
The death penalty “is applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot reliably be disentangled from the large year-to-year changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors,” John J. Donohue III, a law professor at Yale with a doctorate in economics, and Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in the Stanford Law Review in 2005. “The existing evidence for deterrence,” they concluded, “is surprisingly fragile.”
Gary Becker, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992 and has followed the debate, said the current empirical evidence was “certainly not decisive” because “we just don’t get enough variation to be confident we have isolated a deterrent effect.”
But, Mr. Becker added, “the evidence of a variety of types — not simply the quantitative evidence — has been enough to convince me that capital punishment does deter and is worth using for the worst sorts of offenses.”
The debate, which first gained significant academic attention two years ago, reprises one from the 1970’s, when early and since largely discredited studies on the deterrent effect of capital punishment were discussed in the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstitute capital punishment in 1976 after a four-year moratorium.
The early studies were inconclusive, Justice Potter Stewart wrote for three justices in the majority in that decision. But he nonetheless concluded that “the death penalty undoubtedly is a significant deterrent.”
The Supreme Court now appears to have once again imposed a moratorium on executions as it considers how to assess the constitutionality of lethal injections. The decision in that case, which is expected next year, will be much narrower than the one in 1976, and the new studies will probably not play any direct role in it.
But the studies have started to reshape the debate over capital punishment and to influence prominent legal scholars.
“The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has frequently taken liberal positions. “I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified.”
Professor Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in their own Stanford Law Review article that “the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity,’ ” quoting a conclusion of a separate overview of the evidence in 2005 by Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford, in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.
“Capital punishment may well save lives,” the two professors continued. “Those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to inflict capital punishment will fail to protect life.”
To a large extent, the participants in the debate talk past one another because they work in different disciplines.
“You have two parallel universes — economists and others,” said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of “The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment.” Responding to the new studies, he said, “is like learning to waltz with a cloud.”
To economists, it is obvious that if the cost of an activity rises, the amount of the activity will drop.
“To say anything else is to brand yourself an imbecile,” said Professor Wolfers, an author of the Stanford Law Review article criticizing the death penalty studies.
To many economists, then, it follows inexorably that there will be fewer murders as the likelihood of execution rises.
“I am definitely against the death penalty on lots of different grounds,” said Joanna M. Shepherd, a law professor at Emory with a doctorate in economics who wrote or contributed to several studies. “But I do believe that people respond to incentives.”
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But not everyone agrees that potential murderers know enough or can think clearly enough to make rational calculations. And the chances of being caught, convicted, sentenced to death and executed are in any event quite remote. Only about one in 300 homicides results in an execution.
“I honestly think it’s a distraction,” Professor Wolfers said. “The debate here is over whether we kill 60 guys or not. The food stamps program is much more important.”
The studies try to explain changes in the murder rate over time, asking whether the use of the death penalty made a difference. They look at the experiences of states or counties, gauging whether executions at a given time seemed to affect the murder rate that year, the year after or at some other later time. And they try to remove the influence of broader social trends like the crime rate generally, the effectiveness of the criminal justice system, economic conditions and demographic changes.
Critics say the larger factors are impossible to disentangle from whatever effects executions may have. They add that the new studies’ conclusions are skewed by data from a few anomalous jurisdictions, notably Texas, and by a failure to distinguish among various kinds of homicide.
There is also a classic economics question lurking in the background, Professor Wolfers said. “Capital punishment is very expensive,” he said, “so if you choose to spend money on capital punishment you are choosing not to spend it somewhere else, like policing.”
A single capital litigation can cost more than $1 million. It is at least possible that devoting that money to crime prevention would prevent more murders than whatever number, if any, an execution would deter.
The recent studies are, some independent observers say, of good quality, given the limitations of the available data.
“These are sophisticated econometricians who know how to do multiple regression analysis at a pretty high level,” Professor Weisberg of Stanford said.
The economics studies are, moreover, typically published in peer-reviewed journals, while critiques tend to appear in law reviews edited by students.
The available data is nevertheless thin, mostly because there are so few executions.
In 2003, for instance, there were more than 16,000 homicides but only 153 death sentences and 65 executions.
“It seems unlikely,” Professor Donohue and Professor Wolfers concluded in their Stanford article, “that any study based only on recent U.S. data can find a reliable link between homicide and execution rates.”
The two professors offered one particularly compelling comparison. Canada has executed no one since 1962. Yet the murder rates in the United States and Canada have moved in close parallel since then, including before, during and after the four-year death penalty moratorium in the United States in the 1970s.
If criminals do not clearly respond to the slim possibility of an execution, another study suggested, they are affected by the kind of existence they will face in their state prison system.
A 2003 paper by Lawrence Katz, Steven D. Levitt and Ellen Shustorovich published in The American Law and Economics Review found a “a strong and robust negative relationship” between prison conditions, as measured by the number of deaths in prison from any cause, and the crime rate. The effect is, the authors say, “quite large: 30-100 violent crimes and a similar number or property crimes” were deterred per prison death.
On the other hand, the authors found, “there simply does not appear to be enough information in the data on capital punishment to reliably estimate a deterrent effect.”
There is a lesson here, according to some scholars.
“Deterrence cannot be achieved with a half-hearted execution program,” Professor Shepherd of Emory wrote in the Michigan Law Review in 2005. She found a deterrent effect in only those states that executed at least nine people between 1977 and 1996.
Professor Wolfers said the answer to the question of whether the death penalty deterred was “not unknowable in the abstract,” given enough data.
“If I was allowed 1,000 executions and 1,000 exonerations, and I was allowed to do it in a random, focused way,” he said, “I could probably give you an answer.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sleep-Industrial Complex Part Three
on: November 18, 2007, 07:14:02 AM
(Page 7 of 9)
Charles Morin, the Laval University psychologist, told me that it’s not uncommon to discover that a particularly implacable case of insomnia snowballed out of a single stretch of poor sleep — even one with a clear, unavoidable cause, like stress over a new job. While most people eventually shrug off their trouble, the insomniac “forgets what brought about the sleeping problem in the first place,” Morin said. “They worry about not sleeping and how it will impact their daytime functioning, and they start to do things that make sleep more difficult.”
They take naps, throwing their schedule out of whack. Or they become too determined — Morin described patients taking a bath or getting into their pajamas at 7 o’clock, “just to get ready” — and that anticipation turns into performance anxiety. Lying there, they may monitor their progress too vigilantly or worry about the ramifications the next day of not falling asleep right away. This can produce a physiological reaction. Body temperature and blood pressure rise. Metabolism speeds up. Heart rate and brain waves quicken. In other words, the body can respond to the threat of not getting a good night’s sleep the same way it does to most threats: by becoming hyperaroused. “It’s a vicious cycle,” Morin said.
Those who get snared in it may share an unknown, physiological predisposition to insomnia. But whatever its cause, this feedback loop of agony, effort and failure plays out like an escalation of the kind of self-sabotage we’ve all probably experienced when we felt pressure to sleep well and be sharp the next day. “Most of the beliefs these people develop and strategies they employ are very logical and sensible,” Jack Edinger, a psychologist at Duke University and the V.A. Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told me. But “unlike most things in life where, the harder you try, the better you do, with sleep the harder you try the worse you do.”
Edinger and Morin have been influential in the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., to treat chronic insomnia. Studies have arguably shown it to be the most successful treatment for the problem and an astonishingly effective method of weaning insomniacs from sleeping pills — even those who have taken them every night for decades. C.B.T. Therapists work to establish good sleep habits but also to rewrite an insomniac’s unhelpful beliefs about sleep. One of the most typical and debilitating ones, Morin explained, is “that eight hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep is a must every night — and otherwise, without it, you can’t function during the day.” Fixating on that as a requirement only undoes a person. Besides, Morin added, a universal need for eight hours is simply “untrue.”
This is exactly the kind of admission other sleep experts I spoke with seemed not to want to make. They may worry that they’ll cause people to take sleep even less seriously than they already do. But C.B.T. seems to succeed by stripping away a crippling sense of urgency with respect to sleep. How powerless one feels over the quality of his sleep; how realistic his expectations; and whether he exaggerates the consequences of sleeping poorly — these have all been shown to correlate with the severity of an insomniac’s complaints. Morin has developed a scale to measure these beliefs. In a study utilizing this scale and led by Edinger, a person’s score emerged, with other measures of anxiety and mood, as a better predictor of his satisfaction with a night’s sleep than objective measures made in the lab — including how long he slept and how quickly he fell asleep. In fact, these objective measures didn’t seem to correlate to people’s sense of how well they slept at all.
Because sleep deprivation may exact a host of severe tolls on the body over time — which is to say nothing of exhaustion-related car accidents and other dangers — Edinger warns that there are people with appallingly disturbed sleep who “roll with the punches a little better and don’t seem to mind or complain — but maybe they should.” Still, C.B.T. suggests that, in certain cases, creating a purely subjective satisfaction with your sleep can have actual value, even if the sleep itself hasn’t yet objectively improved. While undermining the appeal of sleeping pills by positing the self-evident seeming role of amnesia, Morin noted that C.B.T. tries to foster a kind of amnesia, too. “After a poor night of sleep we’re asking people to forget about it and go about their business as usual,” he says. “Because if you wake up and think, Wow, what a terrible night of sleep, I’m going to have a lousy day, you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Page 8 of 9)
This is not to say that a person who is more tolerant and less threatened by sleep’s inherent imperfections will suddenly get eight uninterrupted hours. But he might be less likely to start down that long, miserable road of perfectly sensible but damaging efforts to control sleep. And that could trigger a quantifiable improvement. If he establishes good habits and puts sufficient faith in his body to get the job done, he might stop trying, stop scrutinizing his progress and thereby stop perpetuating his own hyperarousal. He’d just lie there and wait. “The placebo effect may actually not just be a placebo,” Morin said. “It may produce a physiological predisposition to better sleeping.”
With that in mind, I decided to go see some more mattresses.
Twice a year, at the Las Vegas Market, furniture and mattress manufacturers fill 3.8 million square feet of showrooms in two titanic towers so that 50,000 retailers from around the world can see their wares. The mattress people I met there in August were affable, relaxed and, as always, frank about their industry’s challenges. At a seminar on creating “SleepSperiences” at the retail level, the speaker kicked things off by asking the room full of mattress salespeople what they thought shoppers most often compare them to. Everyone groaned, “Used-car salesman” at once, except the woman seated in front of me. She said, “Like going to the dentist.”
Pete Bils did not attend. He was getting ready to introduce the Sleep Number 9000 at a media event in New York, an upbeat counterpunch to the company’s recent announcement that same-store sales and net earnings had dropped in the previous quarter. There was significant buzz about Tempur-Pedic, though, specifically its new television commercials. The spots, which explained the beds’ even pressure distribution over montages of all things tranquil — tide pools, redwoods, yoga — were emerging as early masterworks of the new, selling-better-sleep genre. They ended with an invitation to “learn more about our science and experience our soul.” “I mean, what an awesome combination of words,” Furniture Today’s David Perry told me.
When I visited Serta’s Las Vegas showroom, an executive named Andrew Gross was eager to show me that a traditional innerspring company like his was just as capable of selling better sleep. Right off the bat, he pointed me to the Serta Perfect Day mattress, noting its emphasis on the mattress as a facilitator of perfect days. Eventually, he led me to an all-foam bed conceived with the participation of the clothing designer Vera Wang and sold under the Vera Wang by Serta label. Gross reached down and picked an almost invisible black speck of something off the top of the bed, then began describing its specifications. In conclusion, he told me that, like all of Serta’s products, this particular mattress was designed to “relieve stress.” I asked him how it did that. We stood there for a second, side by side. Then he said, “Well, it’s a combination of the sleep surface materials and the peace of mind that comes from it being a Vera Wang.”
I looked around the showroom. A man painted white, wearing a toga, stood on a podium, changing statuesque positions every few minutes. In the corner, a harpist played “Desperado.” I began to wonder if much of the hyperrational mattress talk I’d been hearing also provided this kind of emotional, Vera Wang benefit. The hard-to-follow, layer-by-layer tours of each bed’s many patented technologies; the scientific studies and pressure maps; the frequent invocations of NASA engineers; and even the outsize, sleep-obsessed persona of Pete Bils, senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research, himself — they reassure us that a mattress maker is serious and capable; that, given how precarious a thing we’ve turned sleep into, their bed will give us the best shot of succeeding when we climb into it. Even our relationship with the mattress, then, appears muddled up in the same mysterious space between a subjectively good night’s sleep and an objectively good one — how we feel and whether or not we can prove it. And whether the industry realizes it or not, its fledgling campaign to sell better sleep is grappling with the question of which is actually more important to us and which we’re willing to pay for.
(Page 9 of 9)
If ramping up messages about sleep science and technology while bombarding us with medical incentives helps sell more beds, it will be because it speaks to our view that better sleep is primarily a requirement for better wakefulness — that we “sleep to succeed,” as a recent industry-financed release puts it. (This same report notes that “sleep deprivation currently costs U.S. businesses nearly $150 billion annually in absenteeism and lost productivity.”) And yet it’s this very view — that sleep is a bothersome means to an end, like eating enough Omega-3’s — that problematized sleep in the first place. It encouraged us to power through sleep as efficiently as possible or look for shortcuts.
We all might be better off if the industry sold sleep as something to be savored for its own sake, if it just sold sanctuaries and not sanctuaries that are also clinically proven “sleep systems.” That might help us shed an anxiety about sleeping correctly for a more tolerant love of sleeping well, in whatever form sleeping well might take. Oddly, in some cases, that may be the most efficient way of getting empirical results anyway. That is, the industry may only be able to truly offer the kind of life-changing mattresses it sometimes claims to if it fixes the people sleeping in them first.
But that may be just too big a job. When I carried on about this to David Perry in Las Vegas, he told me that enjoying sleep is wonderful but it, by itself, is a hopeless way to move mattresses given how results-oriented the American consumer is. “Remember,” he said, “the key benefit is what happens the next morning.” To make sure I understood, he tossed off a few slogans in the direction he thought the business ought to be heading: “Sleep better, lose weight.” “Sleep better and live longer.” “Sleep better and be more productive the next day.”
Ultimately the Las Vegas Market wore me out. Everywhere I went people were selling me mattresses — if not a particular mattress, then the mystique of mattresses in general. I left exhausted, making my way down the tower’s endless segments of escalators. When I got halfway, I started to find, on each of the landings, a man strumming a ukulele and a woman in a grass skirt and coconut bikini, hula dancing.
The “Polynesian Dreams” luau was getting under way. Below, in the atrium, the staff was rolling thatched-roofed tiki bars into place and stocking them with ice and mugs with totemic faces painted on them. A massive sea horse rose from an hors d’oeuvres table. The same salesmen I’d been seeing around the showrooms turned up wearing leis, loosening up for what looked like a late night. I caught a shuttle back to my hotel, set two alarms for seven the next morning and eventually drifted off watching “Knocked Up” on pay-per-view. As far as I know, I slept well enough.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Part Two
on: November 18, 2007, 07:12:57 AM
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The 9000 was engineered with heat in mind. Bils explained that, as you fall asleep, your body temperature drops. A mattress should disperse the heat you’re expelling. Otherwise the bed “sleeps hot,” cooking you in your own trapped body heat. Sleeping hot is a growing complaint about many beds and may be a consequence of the industry’s manic emphasis on comfort: the shift toward using less-breathable, synthetic materials that conform more snugly to the body, and then stacking them to greater thicknesses. Memory foam especially has a reputation for sleeping hot, though Tempur-Pedic, which sells only foam beds, disputes it as “largely urban myth.” For the 9000, Select Comfort claims to have used a memory foam porous enough to provide air flow but not porous enough to tear apart over time. Yet as they detailed these meticulous solutions to the heat issue, the half-dozen Select Comfort executives in the room insisted that sleeping hot had never been a problem with their beds to begin with.
Soon the engineers turned the program over to Kris Willardson, the company’s accessories maven. Willardson had set up a makeshift display on top of a cabinet and, now and again, had been interjecting to show me whichever of her pillows or sheets dovetailed on the subject at hand. “What we also did,” she now said, “was build Outlast into a pillow protector.” I didn’t know what that was. “Pillow protectors are used on top of your pillow but under your pillow case,” she explained, holding one up. There were phase-changing microcapsules in there as well.
Too many sleepers flip their pillows all night long, looking for the cool side, only to heat it up again, Willardson said. “To the extent that it disturbs your sleep, that is one less thing you’ll be doing. So complementary products keep reinforcing those messages.”
The message, I suppose, behind so many of the mattress industry’s claims is that all of a bed’s high-tech features should combine to create nothing at all — a space free of any impediments to sleep whatsoever. Even the message of the Sleep Number Bed itself, with its two independently inflatable halves, was that your sleep should not be compromised by the adversarial preferences for firmness of the person you love. Now the mattress would shield you from your own body heat, free you from rolling over and end the Sisyphean cycle of flipping and reflipping your sizzling pillow. The industry was clearing the decks for that big, long nothingness to take hold.
Even the most comfortable mattress can only create a place for sleep, not manufacture it directly. But a sleeping pill puts us down — and under circumstances when we’re unable to do it ourselves. Bils told me: “The sleeping pill is an easy path. It promotes sleep over all the rules you break.” In trying to deride his competition, he spelled out its greatest advantage.
Pharmaceutical companies realize they are selling a reassuring guarantee. “Does your restless mind keep you from sleeping?” asks one Lunesta commercial, while the green moth floats in front of a tossing man. Suddenly, like a hypnotist’s watch, it dispatches him into a deep slumber and flies on to lull even the stern, stone visages of Mount Rushmore to sleep. A couple in a commercial for Ambien CR, meanwhile, lie absolutely motionless all night until the darkness around them fades to daylight.
Last year the industry spent more than $600 million on advertising, helping the newest generation of pills, the so-called “Z drugs,” destigmatize sleeping-pill use. The nation’s most popular, Ambien and its extended-release counterpart Ambien CR, accounted for 60 percent of all sleep-aid prescriptions last year according to IMS Health, for $2.8 billion in sales. Surely great numbers of Americans are experiencing the kind of satisfying knockouts depicted in the commercials.
Yet, as a very infrequent but contented user of both Lunesta and Ambien myself, I was startled to read efficacy trials for those drugs submitted to the F.D.A. In one six-week trial, for example, people taking Ambien every night fell asleep, on average, only 23 minutes faster than those taking the placebo. They spent 88 percent of their time in bed asleep, as opposed to 82 percent. Given that their objectively measured improvements are frequently this meager, why do sleeping pills create incommensurate feelings of having slept so well?
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A popular theory is that one of the pill’s side-effects is actually contributing to their success. Most sleeping pills are known to block the formation of memories during their use, creating amnesia. This is why people who endure freaky side-effects — so-called “complex sleep-related behaviors” like getting into a car and driving or ravenously eating, all while asleep — don’t remember those events. Yet this amnesia could be quite beneficial, suggests Michael Bonnet, a professor of neurology at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. “How do you know you slept last night?” Bonnet asked me. A night of lousy, interrupted sleep, he points out, is easy to remember. “It’s full of memories, noise and pain, and heat and rolling around and obtrusive thoughts and worries — all of these various stimuli.” And we may continue to register such things even while asleep, making sleep vaguely unrefreshing. But a good night of sleep, Bonnet went on to say, “is always the antithesis to all those things, which is oblivion.” A sleeping pill, Bonnet speculates, in addition to encouraging sleep chemically in the brain, also “erases all of these thoughts that we use to define ourselves as being awake. The pill knocks them all out, and the patient says, ‘Hey, I must have been asleep because I don’t remember anything.’ ”
Drug-company representatives and consultants I spoke to confirm that their pills can create this mild form of amnesia but disagree that it contributes any significant benefit. “That is not my understanding of how Ambien works,” Dario Mirski, a psychiatrist and spokesman for Ambien’s manufacturer, Sanofi-Aventis, told me. It is difficult to find a clinical trial in which Z-drug takers drastically overestimated how long they slept.
Andrew Krystal, a Duke University psychiatrist and consultant to pharmaceutical companies like Sepracor, Lunesta’s manufacturer, acknowledges an apparent discrepancy in studies between small, objectively recorded improvements and the large percentage of subjects who end up feeling that a pill alleviated their insomnia. But because insomnia is complaint-based, he explained to me, an insomniac is cured when he stops complaining. Who’s to say how many more minutes of sleep or fewer awakenings during the night it should take to relieve each individual’s highly subjective dissatisfaction? Many insomniacs don’t show impaired sleep by any objective measure to begin with — but presumably they benefit from sleeping pills, too. So, Krystal asked, what would you expect to see improve? (A 1990 study presents a jarring example: it focused on a group of insomniacs who, when woken up, swore they hadn’t been sleeping. But if given a sleeping pill first, then woken up, they knew they’d been asleep.) He added, “I’m not a person who shares the view that the reason the drugs work is because they’re amnestic.”
Another prevalent theory is that sleeping pills produce a beneficial physiological effect that clinicians don’t realize they should be measuring. The standard battery of brain-wave and other measurements used in sleep labs provide only a “limited picture,” Krystal said. Nevertheless, several researchers suggested why the amnesia factor isn’t likely to be explained to patients, even as a theory. We tend to see sleep problems as physiological. A treatment that works, even in part, by altering our perception of that problem would seem like “more of a fake,” says Charles Morin, director of the Sleep Research Center at Laval University in Quebec City. Imagine, Morin said, if doctors told their patients: “You keep waking up at night but you just don’t remember it.”
Sleep doctors have criticized sleeping-pill ads for setting up an unattainable expectation of how blissful and easy sleep should be. But the mattress industry operates under that expectation, too, trying vigorously to build a state-of-the-art, NASA-engineered arena on which that idealized, paralytic oblivion can occur. But how did we come to need so much help sleeping in the first place, and how did we come to want, much less expect, the sleep these people are selling?
The story of our ruined sleep, in virtually every telling I’ve heard, begins with Thomas Edison: electric light destroyed the sanctity of night. Given more to do and more opportunity to do it, we gave sleep shorter and shorter shrift. But the sleep that we’re now trying to reclaim may never have been ours to begin with. “It’s a myth,” A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, told me. “And it’s a myth that even some sleep experts today have bought into.”
Ekirch’s 2005 book, “At Day’s Close,” described just how frenetic night in preindustrial times was. People slept, or tried to, in poorly insulated buildings that let in the weather and noise. Livestock huffed and mewled and stank just outside — if not inside. Generally, you slept beside a chamber pot of your own excrement, staggering across the room every few hours to keep your fire alive. With physical health comparatively poor, night was when people simmered most acutely in their discomfort. In 1750, one writer described London between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. as a ghastly encampment of “sick and lame people meditating and languishing on their several disorders, and praying for daylight.”
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Because there was inadequate bedding, if there were beds at all, three family members and the odd houseguest might sleep on a single mattress — sharing in all the usual annoyances of tossing, blanket-hogging and snoring. Beds were not always, or even often, seen as having much impact on sleep. Another book, “Warm and Snug: The History of the Bed,” by a scholar named Lawrence Wright, suggests that they were valued primarily as furniture, settings for public rituals around birth, death and courtship. Beds did raise you up off the floor, away from the bugs and vermin, and kept you warm. But warmer bedding also created a new vector for mites. And when comfort was a consideration, preferences were just as idiosyncratic as today. Mattresses were stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, seaweed or straw. Louis XI had an uncannily Sleep Number-esque mattress, filled with air and inflated to his liking with a royal bellows.
More surprising still, Ekirch reports that for many centuries, and perhaps back to Homer, Western society slept in two shifts. People went to sleep, got up in the middle of the night for an hour or so, and then went to sleep again. Thus night — divided into a “first sleep” and “second sleep” — also included a curious intermission. “There was an extraordinary level of activity,” Ekirch told me. People got up and tended to their animals or did housekeeping. Others had sex or just lay in bed thinking, smoking a pipe, or gossiping with bedfellows. Benjamin Franklin took “cold-air baths,” reading naked in a chair.
Our conception of sleep as an unbroken block is so innate that it can seem inconceivable that people only two centuries ago should have experienced it so differently. Yet in an experiment at the National Institutes of Health a decade ago, men kept on a schedule of 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness — mimicking the duration of day and night during winter — fell into the same, segmented pattern. They began sleeping in two distinct, roughly four-hour stretches, with one to three hours of somnolence — just calmly lying there — in between. Some sleep disorders, namely waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall asleep again, “may simply be this traditional pattern, this normal pattern, reasserting itself,” Ekirch told me. “It’s the seamless sleep that we aspire to that’s the anomaly, the creation of the modern world.”
In fact, many contemporary, nonindustrialized cultures contentedly pass portions of the night in the same state of somnolence, says Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who is one of the first to look at how other societies sleep. Sleep and wakefulness are rarely seen as an either/or, but rather as two ends of a wide spectrum, and people are far more at peace with the fluidity in between. Among the Efe in Zaire, and the !Kung in Botswana, for example, someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and cannot sleep “may begin to hum, or go out and play the thumb piano,” Worthman and a colleague have written. Others might wake up and join in. “Music or even a dance may get going.”
Worthman says, “In our culture, quality sleep is going into a dark room that is totally quiet, lying down, falling asleep, doing that for eight hours, and then getting up again.” She calls it the “lie down and die” model. “But that is not how much of the world has slept in the past or even sleeps today.” In some cultures sleep is more social, with crowds crammed together on little or no bedding, limbs entangled, while a steady traffic comes and goes. And while it all sounds unbearable, Worthman notes that science has never looked empirically at whether our more sophisticated arrangements actually benefit us. For children, learning to sleep amid all that stimulation may actually have developmental advantages.
Still, we can’t afford the same equanimity about not sleeping through the night as the Efe and !Kung; the flipside is that men and women in those cultures are content to pull a cloth over their faces and doze off during the day if necessary. Our peculiar preference for one well-organized hunk of sleep likely evolved as a corollary to our expectation of uninterrupted wakefulness during the day — as our lives came to be governed by a single, stringent clock. Eluned Summers-Bremner, author of the forthcoming “Insomnia: A Cultural History,” explains that in the 18th century, “we start overvaluing our waking time, and come to see our sleeping time only as a way to support our waking time.” Consequently, we begin trying to streamline sleep, to get it done more economically: “We should lie down and go out right away so we can get up and get to the day right away.” She describes insomniacs as having a ruthless ambition to do just this, wanting to administer sleep as an efficiency expert normalizes the action in a factory. Certainly all of us, after a protracted failure to fall asleep for whatever reason, have turned solemnly to our alarm clocks and performed that desperate arithmetic: If I fall asleep right now, I can still get four hours.
Nevertheless, while it may be at odds with our history and even our biology, lie-down-and-die is the only practical model for our lifestyle. Unless we overhaul society to tolerate all schedules and degrees of sleepiness and attentiveness, we are stuck with that ideal. Perhaps the real problem is that we still haven’t come to terms with the unavoidable imperfection of this state of affairs.
Electric light didn’t obliterate nighttime so much as reinvent it. Our power to toggle between light and dark encouraged us to see night as an empty antithesis to day — an unbroken nothing-time that begins the instant we flip off the switch. And this significantly reshaped and rigidified our expectations of how we ought to be spending it. All of this leaves us — regardless of the circumstances or how poor our sleep hygiene is — insisting that we go out, and stay out, like a light.
Our expectation of perfect sleep may not always be biologically feasible. But it is indisputably reasonable, and thus a failure to fulfill it can be maddening. Difficulty sleeping, it turns out, is often inseparable from and heightened by anxiety about sleep itself.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Sleep-Industiral Complex
on: November 18, 2007, 07:11:14 AM
By JON MOOALLEM
Published: November 18, 2007
Pete Bils’s background is in sales — or, as he puts it, “retail concepts.” He joined Select Comfort 12 years ago to teach its salespeople how to better sell the company’s Sleep Number Bed. The Sleep Number Bed is an air-filled mattress. Each side can be inflated with a little remote control to the ideal level of firmness for the person sleeping on it — his or her “sleep number,” zero to 100 — thus accommodating a husband who prefers his side firm and a wife who likes hers softer. You may recognize the Sleep Number Bed from its television commercials featuring the original Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner. Or you may have seen Bils himself explicating its many features and benefits in the loneliest hours of the night on the QVC shopping network.
Off-camera, Bils spends much of his time reading scientific research. He mingles at medical conferences and is chairman of the company’s “Sleep Advisory Board,” a consortium of doctors. He “sleep tinkers,” coordinating pilot studies in sleep labs to understand how to build the mattress of the future. His goal at Select Comfort is to educate Americans about the science and benefits of healthful sleep, and this, plus his title — senior director of sleep innovation and clinical research — makes him seem deliberately more man-of-science than mattress-salesman. The distinction is less clear-cut when it comes to the man himself.
“How’d you sleep last night?” Bils asked, strolling into a conference room to meet me at the company’s headquarters outside Minneapolis one morning last summer. He blared it, the way certain men blare, “Darn glad to meet you.” Later, sitting down to lunch, he noted that the weather had not been “muggy” or “unbearable” but “bad sleeping weather.” Then raising a smile from behind his menu, he issued another electrifying “How’d you sleep last night?”— this time at the waiter who’d come to take his order. The waiter, it turned out, hadn’t slept so well. After some chitchat, Bils ordered the risotto.
Bils, who is 48, is olive-skinned, handsome and, like virtually everyone else Select Comfort arranged for me to meet, relentlessly upbeat. At lunch, I let several minutes pass just listening to the table of executives tell one another how awesome their own Sleep Number Beds are. (Employees have their individual sleep numbers printed on their business cards.) One woman described having to take Tylenol PM to make it through a recent night away from home. Bils said he ships out a Sleep Number Bed when he travels to do QVC tapings. His daughters have slept on Sleep Numbers since they left the crib, and he even jury-rigged something similar for his bulldog. “I’ve learned a lot about sleep from my dogs,” he said. For starters, all bulldogs appear to have sleep apnea. One of the two public relations officers supervising my visit jumped in: her dog’s sleep number is 10, she said; she sets her bed for him at night. “Do whales have REM sleep?” another colleague asked Bils. “Yes, a form of it,” Bils said. Eventually, he turned to me and summed up with a groaner: “We firmly believe — no pun intended — that a mattress can make significant changes in sleep quality.” This turns out to be a very radical idea.
For years, doctors have been discouraged by Americans’ disregard for and mismanagement of their sleep. (“I might as well have been running a chain of beauty parlors for the last four decades” is how one described his advocacy.) But bragging about how little you sleep, a hallmark of the ’80s power broker, is starting in certain circles to come off as masochistic buffoonery. The sleep docs we once ignored appear on morning shows to offer tips. Health professionals and marketers are hopeful that a new seriousness about sleep will continue moving out of a luxury-minded vanguard and into the mainstream. Sleep may finally be claiming its place beside diet and exercise as both a critical health issue and a niche for profitable consumer products.
A sleep boom, or as Forbes put it last year, “a sleep racket,” is under way. Business 2.0 estimates American “sleeponomics” to be worth $20 billion a year, which includes everything from the more than 1,000 accredited sleep clinics (some of them at spas) conducting overnight tests for disorders like apnea, to countless over-the-counter and herbal sleep aids, to how-to books and sleep-encouraging gadgets and talismans. Zia Sleep Sanctuary, a first of its kind luxury sleep store that I visited in Eden Prairie, Minn., carries “light-therapy” visors, the Zen Alarm Clock, the Mombasa Majesty mosquito net and a $600 pair of noise-canceling earplugs as well as 16 varieties of mattresses and 30 different pillows.
Prescription sleeping pills have been the most obvious beneficiary. Forty-nine million prescriptions were written last year, up 53 percent from five years ago, according to IMS Health, a health-care information company. It is now a $3.7 billion business, more than doubling since 2003. At $3 or $4 per pill, their success indicates not only that we have an increasingly urgent craving for sleep but also that many of us have apparently forgotten how to do it altogether — quite a feat for any mammal.
To hear the mattress industry tell it, we’re skipping them over. A few companies have tried to cash in with ultra-high-end novelties. A video promoting Hastens’s $60,000 Vividus bed shows the horsehair it’s stuffed with being sensuously detangled and fluffed by shapely Nordic women. But more down-to-earth mattresses have not conjured any of that allure. Despite long and influential success in the industry, for instance, Select Comfort’s stock was struggling around the time of my visit. And so America’s mattress men, traditionally a band of fast-talking, price-busting commodities brokers, are now trying to figure out how to transform their anonymous white rectangles into holistic health and wellness machines.
More than once, I heard mattress executives invoke the spectral characters of sleeping-pill commercials — the Day-Glo green moth; Abe Lincoln and the talking beaver — as chastening mascots of everything they’re missing out on. Some point to the quick-fix mentality sleeping pills represent as a sign of how thoroughly confused about sleep society has become. “The good news is, there’s more and more awareness about the power of a good night’s sleep,” says David Perry, bedding editor of the trade magazine Furniture Today. The bad news: “What we’re doing in America is, we’re drugging people to make it through the night on, in many cases, a lousy bed.”
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Our misunderstandings about sleep have been centuries in the making. As has already happened in the food and nutrition businesses, some sectors of our new sleep-industrial complex will surely find it profitable to clear up our confusion, while others will simply exploit it. But as mattress companies and sleeping-pill makers both barrel into the marketplace to sell us a good night’s sleep, it’s tough to know where in the jumble of science and storytelling the truth about sleep lies.
All good nights of sleep are alike. Each miserable night of sleep is miserable in its own way. You either close your eyes and, many hours later, open them, or you endure an idiosyncratic epic of waiting, trying, failing, irritation, self-sabotage and despair, then stand up at sunrise racked with war stories you don’t have the energy to tell.
Sleep research is a young field and still doesn’t have a definitive picture of what “normal” sleep is, making discussions of abnormal sleep imprecise. The National Institutes of Health can define insomnia only very broadly, as “complaints of disturbed sleep in the presence of adequate opportunity and circumstance for sleep.” Insomnia can be transient — a few off nights — or horrifically chronic. Complaints may be about difficulty falling asleep or about waking up during the night. But it’s hard to know exactly what those complaints should be judged against. Nor has research determined which objective measures — total time slept, percentage of time spent in the various stages of sleep, etc. — correlate to a person’s subjective feeling of having slept well or poorly. Some people whose sleep looks normal in the lab complain bitterly; some whose sleep looks terrible never do.
Even something as empirical-seeming as how long we sleep becomes problematic. In studies, insomniacs almost invariably overestimate how long it took them to fall asleep and underestimate how long they slept; in one, more than a third of the participants consistently thought they’d slept at least an hour less than their brain-wave activity indicated. Yet in a way, this hardly matters. Wallace Mendelson, past president of the Sleep Research Society, explained to me, “When a patient comes to a doctor, he doesn’t say, ‘I’m here to see you because my EEG shows an insufficient number of minutes of sleep.’ He comes to you saying: ‘I don’t feel like I’m getting enough. I’m tired.’ ” Thus, while insomnia is frequently linked to another, distinct physiological disease or disorder, its diagnosis and treatment often remain, much like pain, locked in the realm of our own inscrutable reports.
Fewer than half of Americans say they get a good night’s sleep every night or almost every night, according to a 2005 poll by the National Sleep Foundation. The N.S.F. is a nonprofit largely financed by the pharmaceutical industry and one of many groups — including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit supported by the mattress industry — that have pushed the value of sleep, and the perils of sleep deprivation and disorders, into public view. (You can mark the change in seasons with their press releases. End of summer: “From Zzzs to A’s: Healthy Sleep Is Key for Back-to-School Success.” Daylight Savings Time: “Fall Back Into Bed and Catch Up on Your Sleep.”)
Some of America’s dissatisfaction likely boils down to poor “sleep hygiene” — basic bad habits like not keeping a regular bedtime; overconsumption of alcohol or coffee; or winding ourselves up with work or television before bed. There is a sometimes-stunning failure to see sleep’s cause-and-effect relationship to what we do while awake. One therapist told me he cured a man’s insomnia by suggesting he stop eating spicy Indian curry late at night. Bils says, “Most sleep problems are self-inflicted by sleepers not knowing how to sleep.” Moreover, doctors have long warned that Americans are suffering from self-caused sleep deprivation without even realizing it. The most damaging and persistent delusion we’ve acquired about sleep is that the vital human function is optional. As one psychologist puts it, “You don’t have people walking around figuring out how to get by on less air.”
Getting Americans to come to bed is therefore still the mattress industry’s first challenge. Recently it has been gathering behind the idea of “selling better sleep,” promoting a fuller understanding of sleep and its health benefits. Bils’s research and advocacy at Select Comfort exemplifies the approach, as does a recent series of appearances by doctors at mattress stores around the country, sponsored by Leggett & Platt, the leading supplier of steel springs. Mark Quinn, a Leggett & Platt vice president, told me, “I think nutrition and fitness have done a great job, and I look at them as example industries.” They’ve taught the public: “If you don’t eat right, you’ll die. If you don’t exercise, you’ll die.”
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Quinn delivered a galvanizing pep talk on selling better sleep to an industry convention in April. He cited new research linking insufficient sleep to poorer metabolism and appetite control. “Are you telling me that we can say, as an industry, ‘If you sleep better you might be able to lose weight?’ ” he said as a slide reading “Chronic sleep deprivation could be making you fat!” filled the wall behind him. Plus, he continued, a bad night of sleep makes you look worn out. “We have a product that can make you look good, and we never talk about it to anybody!” Quinn later told me, “Create the pain, then give them the solution.”
Still, says Furniture Today’s David Perry: “the mattress is not nearly as sexy a part of the equation as drugs or sleep-disorder centers. It just kind of lies there.” For generations many consumers perceived the innerspring beds of the three dominant “S-brands” — Sealy, Serta and Simmons — to be interchangeable. A Gallup poll 10 years ago found that nearly half of Americans didn’t know what brand of mattress they slept on. The industry blamed itself, often ruthlessly.
“The sleep industry has cheapened the mattress,” says Rick Anderson, North American president for Tempur-Pedic. (Tempur-Pedic is the leader in visco-elastic foam, sometimes called “memory foam,” mattresses, made from spongy polyurethane.) Retailers know they are selling a product bought only grudgingly and only once every 12 or 15 years. So they’ve emphasized low prices, shouting about limited-time-only sales that never actually end. “It’s ‘Buy it cheap, buy it now,’ ” Anderson says. “You turn the mattress into a low-priced commodity and, lo and behold, you shouldn’t be surprised when the consumer tells you the mattress isn’t that important.”+
Both Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic began trying to change that perception when they introduced their beds in the late ’80s and ’90s. As noninnerspring or “alternative bedding” companies, they were burdened with proving that what they had — air and foam respectively — was not only better than the grid of steel springs we’d employed for a century but worth prices as high as $7,000. Unfortunately, the scant published scientific literature on mattresses offered little help. (There had been few real developments since the ’50s, when one of the first studies exploring the effects of different sleep surfaces found that the differences between sleeping on a new mattress and on a piece of plywood with some carpet slung over it were “not large and not always statistically significant.”) So Select Comfort financed its own mattress research and now shows in its marketing how people’s sleep improved on the Sleep Number Bed in labs at Stanford and Duke.
Select Comfort also began using pressure mapping in its stores. Pressure mapping is a digital diagnostic that shows on a computer screen how the mattress is evenly distributing a customer’s weight and conforming around his body. It illustrates “that you’re wearing the mattress versus lying on top of it,” Bils says. Points of high pressure are uncomfortable, the thinking goes. They force a sleeper to shift or roll over, and that movement disturbs sleep. There doesn’t appear to be solid scientific validation of this theory; typical sleepers have been shown to change positions 20 to 60 times a night. But when I mentioned that to Anderson at Tempur-Pedic, which promotes its beds for the same reason, he shot back: “They don’t need to.”
By 2005, noninnerspring beds accounted for nearly a quarter of the
$4.6 billion spent on mattresses. Their staying power and overt sciencey-ness had colossal ripple effects on the entire industry. Jim Gabbert, the second-generation mattress retailer behind Zia Sleep Sanctuary, explains: “At first everyone saw air and visco as a fad, like water beds. ‘It won’t amount to much.’ Now all the mainstream innerspring manufacturers are scrambling to compete with those guys. Those specialty manufacturers taught the mainline brand names that you can price things higher, add more features, have a better story.”
The big question became, what else might Americans sleep on — and what combinations of things? The S-brands rolled out their own memory foam beds. Latex foams, modestly successful for decades, also came into vogue — as did various gels. Meanwhile, the industry was finally breaking down the wives’ tale that firm mattresses are always better. “Comfort” became the new buzzword, freeing manufacturers to combine all their new, high-tech materials in infinite iterations on a single bed. Pillowtops, distinct slabs of cushy material stitched on the tops of mattresses, gradually thickened, and beds ascended skyward, layer by layer, in towers of trademarked babble. Serta offers KoolComfort foam. Simmons makes Natural Care Latex and, via its brand ComforPedic, NxG Advanced Memory Foam. Having muscled their way into a virtual stalemate of technology inside the mattress, manufacturers seem to have merely started their arms race all over again on top of it. The end result may not be much better; rather than seeing beds as all the same, consumers are often totally incapable of understanding their countless differences. “It does get confusing,” says Brandon Jackson, bedding director at Houston’s Gallery Furniture store. “After a while, those layers are really only there to add to the cost.” When Jackson started six and a half years ago, selling a $1,000 mattress was “a home run.” Now his average ticket is $3,300.
Standing in Select Comfort’s R. and D. building, among the new, retooled Sleep Number Beds just released, it was clear that the company couldn’t disagree more with Jackson’s view. Two engineers knelt and unzipped the covering of the Sleep Number 9000, the top of the line, to show me its layers. Stacked above the two inflatable air chambers were a blue memory foam, another proprietary foam called Intralux and a thin white scrim with a honeycomb pattern on it. This was called Outlast Adaptive Comfort, which, like Tempur-Pedic’s foam, was originally developed for NASA. Outlast’s tiny, “encapsulated phase change materials” actually switch back and forth from liquid to solid, absorbing heat and producing a pronounced cooling sensation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in UK: Wants to go home for free
on: November 18, 2007, 06:41:48 AM
Illegal immigrant demands to be flown home
Illegal immigrant demands to be flown home because Britons are 'rude and unfriendly'
Last updated at 11:13am on 16th November 2007
An illegal immigrant has demanded to be flown home after saying he was fed up with British people - because they are "rude and unfriendly".
Speaking today, Mokhtar Tabet, 30 - who has been given a home, food and free travel around London - claims his local council has breached his human rights by moving him to a place he does not like.
He was refused asylum in 2004 and is set to be deported.
He said: "The council evicted me from my home in September and moved me to Streatham, which I don't like.
"The new place is small, and the kitchen closes at 9pm, so I can't have anything to eat late at night. They have taken away my human rights."
Croydon Council says it has bent over backwards to help Tabet, who fled Algeria in 2002.
A spokesman said: "Mr Tabet was accommodated in Norbury Crescent, with Croydon Council paying his rent, council tax and utility bills.
"In July, his landlord gave him two months' notice to quit the premises, and the council offered him a flat in Anerley Road, which he refused citing its poor state of repair.
"The necessary repairs were carried out and he again refused it.
"He was told that refusal would amount to him making himself intentionally homeless and he would be placed in hostel-style accommodation. He agreed to this."
Mr Tabet is entitled to return to Algeria at his own expense and admits that he "does not like it here".
But he refuses to do so and says Britain will have to pay for his travel if it wants him to leave.
He moaned: "I miss Algeria. The English people are not helpful, they are so unfriendly and rude.
"I thought I had made friends in Croydon, but when I ask them for money they don't give me it, so I know they can't be my friends."
Mr Tabet fled Algeria in 2002 after being arrested for refusing to give up his home so the army could monitor terrorist activity in his town.
Released after 30 days' solitary confinement he fled to Britain, illegally entering the country on a flight from Tunisia, and sought asylum.
He now receives £32 a week in vouchers from Croydon Council to buy food with while he awaits deportation.
Unsatisfied at this, he griped: "Croydon Council only gives me food vouchers, they won't give me cash. I want the money.
"I have nothing to buy new clothes with, I have to go to a refugee centre. But if there's not anything nice there, you leave with nothing.
"I want the council to give me a bigger flat and money instead of vouchers."
Mr Tabet suffers from diabetes, a retina disease and kidney failure and believes he should be allowed to stay in the country so he can continue to get free NHS care.
He said: "The Home Office said I could afford the medicine back home, but I can't, I don't have a job."
The council insists he has no grounds for complaint. The spokesman explained: "He is supported by the council by way of vouchers, in accordance with the law."
Mr Tabet admits that since he was refused asylum he has "stayed and no one has said anything about it".
But a spokesman from the Border and Immigration Agency insisted he can expect to be deported. He said: "The period between an individual being refused asylum and their removal will vary from case to case depending on individual circumstances. He is being processed through our returning scheme.
"Individuals are free to apply for a new passport and return voluntarily at any time. It's a case of if he wants to return on his own dollar or ours." http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: November 17, 2007, 08:00:31 PM
NYT: U.S. has highly classified program to help safeguard Pakistani nukesposted at 3:35 pm on November 17, 2007 by Allahpundit
Send to a Friend | printer-friendly The least surprising surprise since Ehud Olmert accidentally let slip that Israel has nukes. To its credit, the Times evidently sat on the story for three years in the interests of security; only after the Pakistanis themselves started talking about it and the administration dropped its objection to publishing details are they moving forward.
As with all other forms of military aid to Pakistan, we’re getting very little bang for our buck.
November 18, 2007
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 — Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million so far on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.
But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.
The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.
A raft of equipment — from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment — was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age.
While American officials say that they believe the arsenal is safe at the moment, and that they take at face value Pakistani assurances that security is vastly improved, in many cases the Pakistani government has been reluctant to show American officials how or where the gear is actually used.
That is because the Pakistanis do not want to reveal the locations of their weapons or the amount or type of new bomb-grade fuel the country is now producing.
The American program was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration debated whether to share with Pakistan one of the crown jewels of American nuclear protection technology, known as “permissive action links,” or PALS, a system used to keep a weapon from detonating without proper codes and authorizations.
In the end, despite past federal aid to France and Russia on delicate points of nuclear security, the administration decided that it could not share the system with the Pakistanis because of legal restrictions.
In addition, the Pakistanis were suspicious that any American-made technology in their warheads could include a secret “kill switch,” enabling the Americans to turn off their weapons.
While many nuclear experts in the federal government favored offering the PALS system because they considered Pakistan’s arsenal among the world’s most vulnerable to terrorist groups, some administration officials feared that sharing the technology would teach Pakistan too much about American weaponry. The same concern kept the Clinton administration from sharing the technology with China in the early 1990s.
The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.
Since then, some elements of the program have been discussed in the Pakistani news media and in a presentation late last year by the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear safety effort, Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who acknowledged receiving “international” help as he sought to assure Washington that all of the holes in Pakistan’s nuclear security infrastructure had been sealed.
The Times told the administration last week that it was reopening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan. Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.
The secret program was designed by the Energy Department and the State Department, and it drew heavily from the effort over the past decade to secure nuclear weapons, stockpiles and materials in Russia and other former Soviet states. Much of the money for Pakistan was spent on physical security, like fencing and surveillance systems, and equipment for tracking nuclear material if it left secure areas.
But while Pakistan is formally considered a “major non-NATO ally,” the program has been hindered by a deep suspicion among Pakistan’s military that the secret goal of the United States was to gather intelligence about how to locate and, if necessary, disable Pakistan’s arsenal, which is the pride of the country.
“Everything has taken far longer than it should,” a former official involved in the program said in a recent interview, “and you are never sure what you really accomplished.”
In recent days, American officials have expressed confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is well secured. “I don’t see any indication right now that security of those weapons is in jeopardy, but clearly we are very watchful, as we should be,” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference on Thursday.
Admiral Mullen’s carefully chosen words, a senior administration official said, were based on two separate intelligence assessments issued this month that had been summarized in briefings to Mr. Bush. Both concluded that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was safe under current conditions, and one also looked at laboratories and came to the same conclusion.
Still, the Pakistani government’s reluctance to release information has limited efforts to assess the situation. In particular, some American experts say they have less ability to look into the nuclear laboratories where highly enriched uranium is produced — including the laboratory named for Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man who sold Pakistan’s nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
So far, the amount the United States has spent on the classified nuclear security program, less than $100 million, amounts to slightly less than one percent of the roughly $10 billion in known American aid to Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks. Most of that money has gone for assistance in counterterrorism activities against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The debate over sharing nuclear security technology began just before then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was sent to Islamabad after the Sept. 11 attacks, as the United States was preparing to invade Afghanistan.
“There were a lot of people who feared that once we headed into Afghanistan, the Taliban would be looking for these weapons,” said a senior official who was involved. But a legal analysis found that aiding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — even if it was just with protective gear — would violate both international and American law.
General Musharraf, in his memoir, “In the Line of Fire,” published last year, did not discuss any equipment, training or technology offered then, but wrote: “We were put under immense pressure by the United States regarding our nuclear and missile arsenal. The Americans’ concerns were based on two grounds. First, at this time they were not very sure of my job security, and they dreaded the possibility that an extremist successor government might get its hands on our strategic nuclear arsenal. Second, they doubted our ability to safeguard our assets.”
General Musharraf was more specific in an interview two years ago for a Times documentary, “Nuclear Jihad: Can Terrorists Get the Bomb?” Asked about the equipment and training provided by Washington, he said, “Frankly, I really don’t know the details.” But he added: “This is an extremely sensitive matter in Pakistan. We don’t allow any foreign intrusion in our facilities. But, at the same time, we guarantee that the custodial arrangements that we brought about and implemented are already the best in the world.”
Now that concern about General Musharraf’s ability to remain in power has been rekindled, so has the debate inside and outside the Bush administration about how much the program accomplished, and what it left unaccomplished. A second phase of the program, which would provide more equipment, helicopters and safety devices, is already being discussed in the administration, but its dimensions have not been determined.
Harold M. Agnew, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory, which designed most of the United States’ nuclear arms, argued that recent federal reluctance to share warhead security technology was making the world more dangerous.
“Lawyers say it’s classified,” Dr. Agnew said in an interview. “That’s nonsense. We should share this technology. Anybody who joins the club should be helped to get this.”
“Whether it’s India or Pakistan or China or Iran,” he added, “the most important thing is that you want to make sure there is no unauthorized use. You want to make sure that the guys who have their hands on the weapons can’t use them without proper authorization.”
In the past, officials say, the United States has shared ideas — but not technologies — about how to make the safeguards that lie at the heart of American weapons security. The system hinges on what is essentially a switch in the firing circuit that requires the would-be user to enter a numeric code that starts a timer for the weapon’s arming and detonation.
Most switches disable themselves if the sequence of numbers entered turns out to be incorrect in a fixed number of tries, much like a bank ATM does. In some cases, the disabled link sets off a small explosion in the warhead to render it useless. Delicate design details involve how to bury the link deep inside a weapon to keep terrorists or enemies from disabling the safeguard.
The most famous case of nuclear idea sharing involves France. Starting in the early 1970s, the United States government began a series of highly secretive discussions with French scientists to help them improve the country’s warheads.
A potential impediment to such sharing was the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which bars cooperation between nations on weapons technology.
To get around such legal prohibitions, Washington came up with a system of “negative guidance,” sometimes called “20 questions,” as detailed in a 1989 article in Foreign Policy. The system let United States scientists listen to French descriptions of warhead approaches and give guidance about whether the French were on the right track.
Nuclear experts say sharing also took place after the cold war when the United States worried about the security of Russian nuclear arms and facilities. In that case, both countries declassified warhead information to expedite the transfer of safety and security information, according to federal nuclear scientists.
But in the case of China, which has possessed nuclear weapons since the 1960s and is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Clinton administration decided that sharing PALS would be too risky. Experts inside the administration feared the technology would improve the Chinese warheads, and could give the Chinese insights into how American systems worked.
Officials said Washington debated sharing security techniques with Pakistan on at least two occasions — right after it detonated its first nuclear arms in 1998, and after the terrorist attack on the United States in 2001.
The debates pitted atomic scientists who favored technical sharing against federal officials at such places as the State Department who ruled that the transfers were illegal under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and under United States law.
In the 1998 case, the Clinton administration still hoped it could roll back Pakistan’s nuclear program, forcing it to give up the weapons it had developed. That hope, never seen as very realistic, has been entirely given up by the Bush administration.
The nuclear proliferation conducted by Mr. Khan, the Pakistani metallurgist who built a huge network to spread Pakistani technology, convinced the Pakistanis that they needed better protections.
“Among the places in the world that we have to make sure we have done the maximum we can do, Pakistan is at the top of the list,” said John E. McLaughlin, who served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency at the time, and played a crucial role in the intelligence collection that led to Mr. Khan’s downfall.
“I am confident of two things,” he added. “That the Pakistanis are very serious about securing this material, but also that someone in Pakistan is very intent on getting their hands on it.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans
on: November 17, 2007, 06:45:43 PM
By JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY McClatchy Newspapers
Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines,
sailors and Air Force personnel have given their
lives in the terrible duty that is war. Thousands
more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded
and facing months or years in military hospitals.
This week, I'm turning my space over to a good
friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert
Bateman , who recently completed a yearlong tour of
duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.
Here's Lt. Col. Bateman's account of a little-known
ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor
of the Pentagon with cheers, applause and many tears
every Friday morning. It first appeared on May 17 on
the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman
at the Media Matters for America Website.
"It is 110 yards from the "E" ring to the "A" ring
of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is
newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is
broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant
the entire length of the corridor is packed with
officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all
crammed tightly three and four deep against the
walls. There are thousands here.
This hallway, more than any other, is the `Army'
hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other,
G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate
conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may
not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few
years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.
Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down
the center. The air conditioning system was not
designed for this press of bodies in this area.
The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares.
"10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring.
That is the outermost of the five rings of the
Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the
building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty.
It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it
moves forward in a wave down the length of the
"A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the
pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the
forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He
is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of
his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I
expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private
"Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels
meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to
soldier. Three years ago when I described one of
these events, those lining the hallways were
somewhat different. The applause a little wilder,
perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in
the burden, yet.
"Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the
man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This
steadies the applause, but I think deepens the
sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier's
chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.
"Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E
to A, come more of his peers, each private,
corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field
"11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady
applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at
how stupid that sounds in my own head. My hands
hurt. Please! Shut up and clap. For twenty-four
minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this
hallway - 20, 25, 30. Fifty-three legs come with
them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down
this hall came 30 solid hearts.
They pass down this corridor of officers and
applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at
which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the
generals. Some are wheeled along. Some insist upon
getting out of their chairs, to march as best they
can with their chin held up, down this hallway,
through this most unique audience. Some are catching
handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth
of July parade. More than a couple of them seem
amazed and are smiling shyly.
"There are families with them as well: the
18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old
husband's wheelchair and not quite understanding why
her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew
up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is
crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have,
perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an
appreciation for the emotion given on their son's
behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping,
is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few
cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to
better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd
have themselves been a part of this parade in the
These are our men, broken in body they may be, but
they are our brothers, and we welcome them home.
This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all
year long, for more than four years.
"Did you know that?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Balkans
on: November 17, 2007, 07:49:08 AM
Unfortunately it looks like yet another excrement storm is coming. I use this piece from Stratfor to start this thread because it seems to give a good yet quick initial sense of the clusterfcuk that apparently is coming down the pike.
Kosovo: The Fuse on the Balkan Powder Keg
Kosovo's expected Dec. 10 declaration of independence from Serbia is already inspiring minor violent incidents throughout the Balkans. If tensions erupt over the issue, the fighting is almost certain to spread beyond Kosovo and Serbia.
Kosovo is set to hold parliamentary and local elections Nov. 17 amid tensions surrounding talks on the region's status and the boycott of the elections called by the Serbs. Leading up to Kosovo's expected Dec. 10 declaration of independence from Serbia, small sparks of violence are surfacing not only in Kosovo and Serbia, but also in other Balkan states -- illustrating that if this powder keg blows, the explosion will not be limited to Kosovo and Serbia.
Though the international community is completely split on the issue of Kosovar independence -- and has been since the region's 1999 provisional break from Serbia -- the small secessionist government has said it will not wait any longer. Serbs consider Kosovo the birthplace of their national identity and view Kosovar Albanians as little more than a recent infestation, though the province's population is now more than 90 percent Albanian and less than 5 percent Serbian. The Kosovars want nothing less than independence, and the Serbs want to give them anything but.
Kosovo had expected the West to continue supporting what it called the inevitability of Kosovar independence. However, that inevitability is now lost in the shuffle of a larger political battle between global power players such as Russia, the European Union and the United States, and Serbia and Kosovo are left with only uncertainty.
All sides fear this uncertainty will turn volatile -- and possibly bloody. If an explosion of violence does occur, it will not be contained within Serbia and Kosovo's borders; it could destabilize the entire Balkan region. Minor incidents of violence and instability have already been seen in Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Serbia and Kosovo
Serbia and Kosovo seem to have avoided violence on the scale of that seen in the late 1990s, mainly because the Radicals did not come to power during Serbian elections and because Kosovar independence was continually put on the back burner this year. This does not mean, however, that such violence can be avoided altogether, especially as each side gets more fed up with the situation. Small-scale violence has been seen and is not unexpected. Tensions are high between Kosovars and Serbs and within each ethnic faction as well.
The Serbs within Kosovo do not make up enough of the population to attempt any meaningful military operations, but there are other threats. The most obvious -- but not the most likely -- is that Serbia could do what it did in 1999 when it wanted to reassert full control over Kosovo: send in the army. But the military is not in the shape it was in then. Moreover, the Serbs within Serbia proper are too fractured; some are willing to forgo Kosovo to gain EU membership, while others are willing to fight to the end for the small province. That is enough to cause trouble, since only a few radicals are needed to form paramilitary groups like those seen during the war.
There are also small Serbian terrorist groups that have been operating periodically in Serbia and Kosovo. The best known is Tsar Lazar's Guard, which was a joke when it first formed but has been gaining support -- and reportedly weapons -- as Dec. 10 approaches. Serbs are not the only group reported to have militants working for their cause; the Albanian National Army militant group reportedly has been recruiting new members and equipment recently.
Kosovar Albanians also have been stirring unrest inside the recently independent Montenegro. The small Albanian population in Montenegro on the Kosovar border has already been stirred up, however; a handful of Albanians were arrested in Ulcinj, Montenegro, and Kosovar Albanians began flooding over the border and stormed the police station in protest.
Montenegro understands what it is like to push for independence from Serbia, but unlike Kosovo the country is still very divided over whether it is content with its new independence. Approximately 40 percent still consider themselves ethnically Serbian -- especially since they share the same church and same language -- and are thus loyal to Belgrade. Some Montenegrin Serbians have already pledged to help fight if Kosovo gets its independence.
The militants in Kosovo have also been linked to Albanians crossing the border from Macedonia. Albanians are the ethnic minority within Macedonia but hold the majority of the northwestern part of the country. The Macedonian-Kosovar border is mountainous and incredibly porous, leading to large border crossings that the already weak Macedonian military cannot prevent. These Albanians and Kosovar Albanians have been seen actively engaging in violence on both sides of the border, proving that the wounds from the 2001 Macedonia conflict -- in which the Albanians within the country began attacking Macedonian forces -- are still fresh.
Internally, Macedonia has been politically unstable because of the main Albanian party actively pushing against the government as it keeps its eyes on Kosovo. Macedonia is trying to keep a lid on any large-scale violence because of its aspirations to join the EU, but hostilities have broken out within Macedonia's borders. On Nov. 7, Macedonian police killed four Albanians in an operation called Mountain Storm on Mount Sar Planina. Macedonian police said the Albanians were planning a major terrorist act that would destabilize both Kosovo and Macedonia.
Bosnia-Herzegovina could be a flashpoint in the struggle over Kosovo. Bosnia-Herzegovina is split between two autonomous regions -- the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska (the Serb Republic) -- and three ethnic groups: Muslim Bosniaks, Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. In short, the country does not have a comfortable ethnic, social, historic or political mixture. The U.N. administrative presence is the only thing keeping relative peace and general unity in the country.
However, control is being transferred from the United Nations to the European Union -- something many radical Serbs within the country are not happy with because it means the loss of Russia's voice in Bosnia's future (Russia is on the U.N. Security Council and supports the Orthodox Serbs). The Muslims within the country do not want EU supervision, claiming the Union is not friendly to Muslims. Republika Srpska has criticized the transfer, since they pledge their loyalty to their brother Serbs next door and to their more numerous Orthodox brothers in Russia.
The Muslim Bosniaks and Serbs -- with the Croats in flux -- are keeping the country from moving toward any political unity or a real constitution. But with Kosovo in play, the Serbs from Republika Srpska are threatening to declare their own independence. It is no secret that the majority of Serbs within Republika Srpska want Serbia proper to annex their region, though many Serbs in Serbia proper look upon them as radicals or country bumpkins. Serbs in Republika Srpska could become very problematic if they either split from Bosnia-Herzegovina or decide to flood across the border to fight with their fellow Serbs. NATO -- which commands the European forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- is rumored to have a contingency plan to sweep into Republika Srpska if either of these events happens, taking the government buildings and media outlets and blocking the main roads into Serbia.
The Threat of Greater -- and Spreading -- Violence
Contagion effects of Balkan violence are well known; they were seen both in the early 20th century and in the 1990s, and the recent outbursts are following the same pattern. Since EU and NATO forces are present, there have been no large wars declared by the states themselves. But if the region does ignite, Western forces could face many problems. First, those forces are a mere shadow of what they were during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s -- during which it took four years to get the region generally under control. European and U.S. forces are deployed only in the non-Serbian section of Bosnia-Herzegovina and within Kosovo, not throughout the region. Furthermore, NATO and the United States are bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq and trying to juggle threats larger than the Balkans -- namely Iran and Russia.
To put it plainly, the West is not paying much attention to the Balkans other than as a bargaining chip with other global players such as Russia. But with or without the world watching, the actors in the Balkans are ready to move.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread
on: November 17, 2007, 07:17:31 AM
Posted on behalf of Dean:
Very much looking forward to being there on Sunday. Someone please, let David C. (Paramedic) know that I am bringing a couple skin staplers and some other goodies (just in case).
I will also be bringing one of my new students as a designated driver.
I hope to make the best of this trip, unfortunately our time will be limited to driving up Sunday Early and driving back Sunday night. (Gotta work Monday 0700) "Living the Dream"
I hope to be there by around 10AM or so...
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology
on: November 16, 2007, 03:54:49 PM
Technology Wants To Be Free
Kevin Kelly, The Technium (11/14/07): Last February during a break at the most recent TED conference I was speaking to Chris Anderson, current editor in chief at Wired about his planned next book, called FREE. Nearly 10 years ago I had written a chapter in my thin New Rules for the New Economy book that focused on the role of the free and the economics of plentitude. I called that chapter “Follow the Free.” Almost nothing I’ve written has been as misunderstood as this short chapter. I’ve not had a Q+A session since then without this question coming up: “You say we should embrace the free. How can everything be free?”
The truth is that the concept of the free is easily misunderstood. Thus I applaud Chris’ brilliance in devoting a whole book to unraveling the mess. There’s much to be said about it, and even then we’ll just be at the beginning of understanding what free means. I originally thought I was done with the subject 10 years ago, but the continual questions, as well as the continual evolution of the commons, new social dynamics, new technological disruptions, and further research in the decade since have surfaced some new ideas. In particular I’ve concluded the free is deeply entwined into the very foundation of technology. I was sharing some of those emerging half-baked thoughts with Chris in the lobby of TED. Since that conversation I’ve discovered that the tie between technology and the free goes even further than I thought. My current conclusion can be summarized simply: Technology wants to be free…
George Gilder once noted there was a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in miniaturization of technology. Smaller chips ran cooler, which allowed them to run faster, which allowed them to run cooler, which allowed them to be made smaller. And so on. There is a similar self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in the free-ization of technology. Nearly-free goods permit waste and experimentation, which breed new options for that good, which increase its abundance and lower its price, which generate more new options, which permit further novelty. And so on. These loops work on each other, compounding the effects between techniques and goods, and supercharging the entire ecology of technologies with an unstoppable momentum towards the free and towards unleashing new capabilities and possibilities.
The odd thing about free technology is that the “free as in beer” part is actually a distraction. As I have argued elsewhere (see my 2002 New York Times Magazine article on the future of music for example) the great attraction of “free” music is only partially that it does not cost anything. The chief importance of free music (and other free things) is held in the second English meaning of the word: free as in “freedom.” Free music is more than piracy because the freedom in the free digital downloads suddenly allowed music lovers to do all kinds of things with this music that they had longed to do but were unable to do before things were “free.” The “free” in digital music meant the audience could unbundled it from albums, sample it, create their own playlists, embed it, share it with love, bend it, graph it in colors, twist it, mash it, carry it, squeeze it, and enliven it with new ideas. The free-ization made it liquid and ‘free” to interact with other media. In the context of this freedom, the questionable legality of its free-ness was secondary. It didn’t really matter because music had been liberated by the free, almost made into a new media.
Technology wants to be free, as in free beer, because as it become free it also increases freedom. The inherent talents, capabilities and benefits of a technology cannot be released until it is almost free. The drive toward the free unleashes the constraints on each species in the technium, allowing it to interact with as many other species of technology as is possible, engendering new hybrids and deeper ecologies of tools, and permitting human users more choices and freedoms of use. As a technology grows in abundance and cheapness, it is more likely to find its appropriate niche which it can sustain itself and support other technologies in commodity mode. As technology heads toward the free it unleashes the only lasting thing it can: options and possibilities.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: November 16, 2007, 12:22:55 PM
Que bueno verte aqui de nuevo. Tenemos nuestro "DB Gathering of the Pack" este domingo-- por lo cual no tendre tiempo para responder hasta la semana que viene.